Stats & Info: Josh Beckett

Pirates break out long ball to beat Dodgers

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23

AP PhotoNeil Walker rounds the bases after hitting the first of the Pirates' three home runs on Tuesday.
It had been a long time since the Pirates had hit three home runs in a game. Since Pittsburgh last did this April 17 against the Brewers, every other team in the majors has hit three homers in a game at least once. The Blue Jays have done it 13 times.

Gregory Polanco went 2-for-4 with a home run, three runs and three RBIs. The home run was his first since July 2, a span of 14 games. Over that span Polanco went without an extra-base hit and hit .158 with two RBIs.

During his slump, Polanco struggled in particular with the inside pitch, going just 1-for-18 (.056) in at-bats ending with a pitch on the inner half. Both of his hits on Tuesday came on inside pitches.

Another Pirate to break a homerless drought was Ike Davis, who went deep for the first time since June 9. Over 32 homerless games Davis hit .205 with a .582 OPS.

During his homerless stretch, Davis oddly hit nearly 150 points better on pitches out of the strike zone (.313) than he did on pitches in the zone (.177). Davis' home run on Tuesday came on a fastball in the strike zone.

Neil Walker also homered for the Pirates, though he has not had trouble with the long ball as of late. His 15th homer of the season was his fourth in his last 10 games, and leaves him one shy of his career high.

The three homers all came off Dodgers starter Josh Beckett, who struggled in his return from the disabled list. Beckett, who had allowed just two home runs in his previous six starts combined, lasted a season-low 3 2/3 innings on Tuesday.

Pittsburgh is now 28-17 since the start of June (second-best in the National League) and has closed within 2.5 games of the Brewers in the NL Central. The Pirates have enjoyed playing at PNC Park this season, improving to an NL-best 33-21 at home, including wins in 13 of their last 16 games.

The rubber game of the series comes on Wednesday night as Dan Haren takes on Francisco Liriano. The Pirates will look to continue their power surge against Haren, who has allowed 20 home runs this season, which is tied for second-most in the major leagues.

Beckett adds to Dodgers' no-no history

May, 25, 2014
May 25
The Los Angeles Dodgers entered Sunday with 20 no-hitters, the most for any team in major league history.

But it had been awhile since they threw one and since the team they faced Sunday, the Philadelphia Phillies, had been no-hit.

Josh Beckett added another to the Dodgers’ ledger, as he no-hit the Phillies on Sunday.

The Dodgers not only have the most no-hitters all time, but the Phillies also have been no-hit the most: 19 times.

The history
Beckett became the first Dodgers pitcher to throw a no-hitter since Hideo Nomo no-hit the Colorado Rockies in 1996.

Beckett is the first pitcher to no-hit the Phillies since Bob Forsch threw one for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1978.

The Phillies had gone the second-longest without being no-hit. The team with the current longest streak of not being no-hit is the Cubs, who were last no-hit by Sandy Koufax in 1965 (a perfect game).

The Dodgers have thrown five no-hitters against the Phillies (including Koufax in 1964). The Elias Sports Bureau notes that only one franchise has thrown more no-hitters against an opponent than that: The Dodgers hold that distinction with six no-hitters against the Giants.

It was the second no-hitter to be thrown in Citizens Bank Park, joining Roy Halladay, who threw one against the Reds in the 2010 National League Division Series.

How Beckett won
Beckett threw a career-high 128 pitches. His previous longest no-hit bid was 6 2/3 innings in 2009 against the Detroit Tigers. Beckett had previously thrown a one-hitter in 2011 against the Tampa Bay Rays, the last time he threw a shutout.

He won with a combination of an effective fastball and good secondary stuff. He threw 68 fastballs and cutters, which accounted for 18 outs. Beckett got nine outs on the 60 off-speed pitches he threw (40 curveballs and 20 changeups).

Beckett succeeded at keeping the ball down, throwing 52 percent of his pitches in the lower third of the strike zone or below, his highest rate throwing to that location in any start in the last three seasons.

He averaged 91.6 mph with his fastball for the game but threw a little harder as the game went on. He averaged 92 mph with the fastball in the last three innings.

Beckett succeeded against a lefty-heavy lineup. Phillies lefties were 0-for-20 against him, one start after Mets lefties went 5-for-13 with two home runs against him.

Did you know?
The last five no-hitters have been thrown by National League teams.

The last time the NL threw the five most recent no-hitters in the major leagues was from 1978 to 1981 (also five straight). The pitchers were Bob Forsch (1978), Tom Seaver (1978), Ken Forsch (1979), Jerry Reuss (1980) and Charlie Lea (1981).

Elias Sports Bureau Stat of the Day
Josh Beckett has a no-hitter with the Dodgers and World Series wins with the Marlins and Red Sox.

The only other pitcher in major league history to win World Series games with multiple franchises and throw a no-hitter with another franchise is Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven.

Beckett's fastball not as effective anymore

August, 28, 2012
What’s all the excitement for about Josh Beckett?

Josh Beckettum
The newly acquired Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher made his first start for a National League team since 2005, and he’s simply not the same pitcher anymore.

Beckett allowed a leadoff home run to Tyler Colvin after allowing just one leadoff homer in his entire five-season NL stint with the Florida Marlins.

Much of his decline can be attributed to a decline in fastball velocity.

Beckett’s heater averaged more than 94 MPH in 2009 but it has decreased in average velocity each of the last three seasons. It’s down to 91.5 MPH this season. In fact, his fastest fastball velocity this season is 94 MPH, which is slower than his average fastball velocity in 2009 (94.1).

But it’s not just his fastball. The average velocity of his cutter has decreased each of the last three seasons. It averages 89.1 MPH this season, a full 2 MPH lower than it was in 2009.

His changeup and curveball are both nearly 2 MPH slower this season than they were last season.

Beckett is now winless in his last seven starts. He’s lost five straight decisions for the first time in his career. He’s won just one game since May. He hasn’t had a quality start since July 15.


• Five of Beckett's seven hits allowed, including both extra-base hits, came on his fastballs (2/4-seam). It's his fourth straight start in which he's allowed at least five hits via the fastball, his longest streak in the last four seasons.

• Beckett tied a season high by going to eight three-ball counts, which ran up his pitch count. Six of the eight three-ball counts came after he was originally ahead 1-2 or 2-2. That especially hurt his outing, as he had to come out after 5 ⅔ innings with 108 pitches.

Curveball is crucial for Beckett turnaround

August, 27, 2012

Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesJosh Beckett has struggled this season, but his curveball has just a .165 opponent average.
The Los Angeles Dodgers will send Josh Beckett to the mound tonight against the Colorado Rockies (8:40 ET) as he makes his debut for Los Angeles. Beckett will be starting his first game as a National League pitcher since 2005 when he was with the Florida Marlins, and in his time with the NL he posted a 41-34 record.

Beckett's last start against the Rockies was Game 1 of the 2007 World Series at Fenway Park. He struck out nine in the first win of a Boston Red Sox sweep, and the pitcher who took the loss for the Rockies in that game was Jeff Francis, the Rockies starter tonight.

Fastball in Decline

Beckett will look to turn things around with a new team, as he has certainly struggled lately. In his first four seasons with the Red Sox, Beckett won over 65 percent of his decisions and recorded six complete games. Since the start of the 2010 season, though, he has a winning percentage of just .500.

The main cause for concern has been with the heater, as Beckett's fastball velocity has declined each of the last three seasons. In 2009, when he won 17 games, Beckett averaged 94.1 miles per hour on his fastball. In 2012, he is averaging just 91.5. This season his fastball has not fooled batters in the least, as he's allowed a .299 opponent batting average.

Curveball is Beckett's Key

While his fastball has not been successful this year, his curveball has. While Beckett has thrown the fastball 962 times this season, he has the same amount of strikeouts (32) with the curve despite throwing his curveball 614 fewer times. Opponents are also posting just a .165 batting average and .198 on base percentage.

Gonzalez's production offsets hefty price tag

August, 25, 2012

US PresswireCarl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Adrian Gonzalez are all heading to the Dodgers in exchange for James Loney and prospects.

In one of the biggest moves of the summer, the Dodgers acquired Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto on Saturday from the Red Sox in exchange for James Loney and a handful of prospects. But for Boston, the most important piece it received in the deal may be salary relief.

In all, the Red Sox moved over $262 million in guaranteed contracts beyond this season including $127 million for Gonzalez and $102.5 million for Crawford. The deal marked the first time in MLB history that two players were involved in a trade with at least $100 million remaining on their deals.

The Dodgers’ motivation to take on so much salary is pretty clear. Entering Saturday, Dodgers first basemen ranked among the bottom three in the National League in batting average (.244), RBI (55), and slugging (.357) and their collective on-base percentage of .289 was 29th in all of baseball.

The streaking Adrian Gonzalez should provide an immediate boost. Since July 1, Gonzalez is second in the American league in RBI (43), fourth in hits (61), and fifth in batting average (.345).

His 15 total home runs are slightly behind his career pace, but still more than triple the output of Dodgers’ primary first baseman, James Loney (4).

Beyond base statistics, the upgrade may be most apparent when considering wins above replacement. Gonzalez has been worth 2.4 WAR this season despite his early struggles, seventh among all first basemen. Loney, on the other hand, has been worth almost a full win below replacement (-0.9), second-worst among first basemen and worst in the National League.

On the mound, Josh Beckett and the Dodgers hope a change of scenery helps the righty find his old form. Beckett won over 65 percent of his decisions between 2006 and 2009 in Boston with six complete games. He has been a .500 pitcher in three seasons since with only one complete game. A big reason for the slide? His fastball.

Josh Beckett’s average fastball velocity has fallen in each of the last three seasons and the rate in which he throws the pitch has also gone down.

Only 49.3 percent of his pitches were fastballs in 2012 after having thrown the pitch nearly 54 percent of the time over the previous three seasons.

Carl Crawford is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but he too is eager for a fresh start in L.A. Crawford posted career highs in home runs (19), runs batted in (90), and OPS (.851) during his final season with the Rays in 2010. In two seasons with the Red Sox, however, Crawford has 15 homers, 75 runs batted in, and a .711 OPS while battling a host of injuries.

The Dodgers enter play Saturday three games back of the Giants in the NL West and a game and a half back of the Cardinals for the final wild card spot. Will the additions be the catalyst of a postseason push? Only time will tell whether this mega-deal pays mega-dividends.

Kuroda's look outside nets improvement

August, 19, 2012

U.S. Presswire/Kevin JairajHiroki Kuroda has been among the best pitchers in the AL the last two months.

The pitcher to watch in the Sunday Night Baseball matchup is not who you might think it would be. Let’s take a snapshot look at that and other things to keep an eye on heading into tonight’s series-deciding clash.

The new-look Hiroki Kuroda
Hiroki Kuroda has found an unusual amount of success making the conversion from the National League to the American League.

He’s tied with Felix Hernandez for the major-league lead in scoreless starts of at least seven innings this season with six, including a two-hit shutout of the Texas Rangers in his last appearance.

The strategy you’ll see from Kuroda tonight will likely involve keeping the ball away from opposing hitters.

Of the hitters Kuroda has retired this season, 52 percent have gone down on a pitch away. That’s the ninth-highest rate among the 101 pitchers who have currently qualified for the ERA title.

Kuroda has worked inside and outside with his fastball, slider, and splitter. He’s established himself as the best in baseball at keeping the ball away from a hitter’s sweet spot.

Only 18 percent of his pitches (in other words, about 18 to 20 per game) are over the middle-third of the plate, width-wise. That’s the lowest rate in the majors (an average pitcher throws about 24 of 100 pitches to that area).

Beckett’s fastball
Josh Beckett’s plummeting fastball velocity has been a storyline throughout this season. The pitch that averaged 94 miles-per-hour in 2009 now clocks at 91 to 92 regularly.

In turn, opponents have hit it. They’ve gone from missing at a rate of about once every 5.5 swings to once every nine swings. When they do make contact, they do a lot of damage. They’ve raised their batting average against it from .230 in 2011 to .297 in 2012, and their slugging percentage has jumped from .356 to .459.

The one thing that Beckett has done to compensate appears to be keeping the ball down. Nearly 30 percent of his fastballs have been in the lower-third of the strike zone or below this season, a jump from 18 percent in 2011.

The Yankees touched Josh Beckett for six runs in five innings earlier this season. Keeping the fastball down didn’t help. He yielded four baserunners and got just three outs with that pitch in that area.

The Yankees approach vs Dustin Pedroia
Why are Dustin Pedroia’s slashline numbers (.280/.336/.428) all career-lows this season?

One reason is a decline in success against inside pitches.

The chart on the right shows how Pedroia has fared against pitches on the inner-half of the plate, or closer to him.

The Yankees seem to have taken notice. They’ve increased the percentage of inside pitches to him from 21 percent last season to 31 percent this year.

The fill-ins are working out fine
Just as the Red Sox didn’t expect to use Pedro Ciriaco as much as they have, the Yankees certainly didn’t expect to need Eric Chavez, Casey McGehee and Jayson Nix to play as much as they have. But Alex Rodriguez’s injury necessitated that.

Rodriguez is hitting .276 with a .449 slugging percentage this season. The Yankees third-base trio listed above is hitting .370 with a .713 slugging percentage since July 25.

Chavez, who should start tonight, is 15-for-27 with four home runs against right-handed pitching the last two weeks. Much of that damage (eight hits, two home runs) has come against offspeed pitches.

Declining fastball keys Beckett struggles

August, 14, 2012

Sarah Glenn/Getty ImagesJosh Beckett's average fastball velocity has declined each of the last four seasons.
Despite a September in which Josh Beckett allowed 12 earned runs in two starts during the Boston Red Sox’s historic collapse, 2011 was a solid season for the righty, who went 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA, the second-lowest ERA of his career.

This season, however, has been a different story for the former World Series MVP. In 11 fewer starts, Beckett has already allowed more earned runs (64) than he did all of last season (62) and his 4.97 ERA would be his third-highest for a single season in his 12-year career. Entering Tuesday, only Jon Lester (5.20) has a higher ERA among qualified Red Sox starters this season.

In his most recent start, Beckett allowed a season-high eight earned runs in a no-decision against the Rangers. It was Beckett’s ninth start allowing at least eight earned runs since 2006, tying him for the most in baseball over that span.

One reason for his struggles has been the ineffectiveness of his cutter. Opponents are hitting .277 against Beckett’s cutter this season, the highest average he’s allowed against that pitch since 2009 (.333). Opponents recorded just a .228 average against that pitch in 2011.

Of the 12 home runs that Beckett has allowed this season, four have come against his cutter, including the two he surrendered against the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton and Mitch Moreland last week.

Overall, Beckett’s fastball this season has not been the dominant pitch it once was. His velocity is down to an average speed of 91.6 MPH, continuing a trend that has occurred over each of the last four seasons.

The decline in average fastball velocity has resulted in a significant drop in opponent miss percentage against the pitch. In 2011, hitters swung and missed 17.8 percent of the time against Beckett's fastball. This season, hitters are missing just 11.6 percent of those pitches.

If Beckett can turn things around Tuesday, he will have to do it against a team that has had his number recently, the Baltimore Orioles. The Red Sox have lost three straight and six of their last seven meetings against the O's in games Beckett has started.
Even with Jon Lester’s win on Saturday against the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox still are 10 games under .500 (14-24) in games started this season by Lester and Josh Beckett, 36-27 in all other games.

On Sunday (8 ET on ESPN), left-hander Felix Doubront gets the start for Boston. At 10-5, Doubront has as many wins as Becket and Lester combined (10-17).

In Doubront’s 19 starts this season, the Red Sox are 13-6. One reason for that is that Boston has scored a lot of runs; Doubront's run support of 6.5 ranks second only to Jered Weaver (6.6) among qualified starting pitchers.

Although Doubront struggled in his last start, a 9-1 loss at Texas, he has pitched well on the road: 3.83 ERA with an opponent batting average of .236. At Fenway Park, Doubront’s ERA is 5.20 with a .283 opponent batting average.

As is the case with most pitchers, Doubront’s been at his best when he’s ahead in the count (see chart). His best pitch has been his curveball. Opponents are hitting .127 against his curve, that’s the second-lowest average among qualified American League pitchers behind Justin Verlander (.124). Doubront’s 48.2 strikeout percentage with his hook ranks third in all of baseball among qualifiers.

Teams have taken advantage of Doubront when they’ve been able to get on base. With the bases empty, Doubront’s opponent batting average is .247; however, with runners on it jumps to .279, and .327 with runners in scoring position.

Doubront will face Hiroki Kuroda, who has won his last four decisions. The Yankees have won each of Kuroda’s last six starts and are 8-2 since June with Kuroda on the mound.

In fact, Kuroda has lost only once in his last 11 starts, lowering his ERA from 4.56 to 3.34. His effectiveness can be attributed to the fact that he's keeping the ball in the park. After allowing 10 home runs in his first nine starts, Kuroda has allowed only five HR in his last 11.

Curve carries Beckett back to Miami

June, 11, 2012

Getty Images
Josh Beckett goes against Josh Johnson on Monday Night Baseball in Miami.
When the Boston Red Sox visit the Miami Marlins on Monday Night Baseball (ESPN, 7 ET), two of the Marlins’ best pitchers will square off. How is that possible?

Real Big Fish
Josh Johnson
Josh Beckett
Josh Beckett pitches for the Red Sox, and he’ll face his former team for the first time in his career. His 3.46 ERA is second (min. 400 IP), his 607 K are seventh and his 41 wins are eighth on the franchise’s all-time list.

The Marlins will counter with Josh Johnson, one of the few pitchers ahead of Beckett in the franchise record books -- he’s second in ERA, third in wins and fourth in strikeouts.

Both pitchers have had success in interleague play in their careers -- Beckett is 13-5 with a 3.01 ERA and Johnson is 7-2 with a 3.21 ERA. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it’s the second time this season opposing pitchers enter an interleague game with a .700 or better career win percentage (minimum seven wins) in interleague play. The other instance also involved Beckett, when he pitched against Cliff Lee.

In his sixth start of the season, a loss to the Indians, Beckett allowed seven hits, two walks and seven earned runs and couldn’t get out of the third inning. He had an ERA of nearly six and the team was a season-high seven games under .500.

After the game, Beckett’s press conference focused on the belief that he played golf two days earlier despite being skipped in the rotation with a sore lat muscle.

Since that day, Beckett has made five starts and allowed two or fewer earned runs in four of them, completing at least seven innings in each start. He’s increased the use of his curveball and thrown it in the strike zone more often.

Johnson has also turned his season around after a rough start -- he was 0-3 with a 6.61 ERA through six starts and opponents were hitting .359 against him. In his past six starts, he’s 3-1 with a 2.95 ERA and opposing batters are hitting more than 100 points lower.

He’s done it with his bread-and-butter pitch, the fastball. In his past six starts, opponents are hitting .229 against his heater (.391 in his first six starts) and just .114 in two-strike counts (.284 in his first six).

Hanley Ramirez
Jose Reyes
Marlins Left Side
The Marlins have -16 Defensive Runs Saved this season, meaning their defense has cost them 16 runs, which ranks 20th in the majors. One of their weakest spots has been at SS, where they signed free agent Jose Reyes to replace Hanley Ramirez, in a supposed defensive upgrade.

The Marlins are tied for 28th in baseball with -9 Defensive Runs Saved at SS. Reyes is tied with Derek Jeter for the fewest DRS (-9) among qualified MLB SS.

Only three teams have fewer Defensive Runs Saved at 3B, but here’s a case where the traditional stats and the advanced metrics don’t match up. Miami has the fewest errors and the highest fielding percentage by third basemen this season.

One thing Reyes has done for Ramirez is put him in good spots offensively. Ramirez has 78 plate appearances with runners in scoring position this season -- only five players have more. He had 103 such PA all last season, tied for 200th in the majors.

His 131 PA with runners on base is fifth in baseball -- he had 168 last season, 214th in the majors.

Greinke extends historic home streak

May, 20, 2012
Zack Greinke
No team could use a stretch of favorable pitching matchups more than the Minnesota Twins, who entered Sunday with the worst record in the majors at 14-26. But, as teams far better than the Twins have learned the hard way, facing Zack Greinke at Miller Park is anything but favorable for opposing hitters.

Greinke won again at home Sunday, allowing just one run and striking out six as the Milwaukee Brewers smashed the Twins 16-4. It was Greinke’s 18th straight win in a home decision, with the last 14 coming since he arrived in Milwaukee from Kansas City.

With the win, Greinke became the first pitcher to win 18 straight home decisions since Kenny Rogers won 19 consecutive decisions at home with four different teams from 1997 to 2000.

Greinke and Rogers are two of the six pitchers with a win streak of at least 18 in home decisions in the live-ball era (since 1920). They’re joined by Roy Face, Frank Viola, Ray Kremer and Lefty Grove, who had two separate streaks of at least 18 wins in home decisions (18 from 1932-33, 20 from 1938-40).

Greinke hasn’t lost a home start since July 26, 2010, when he allowed eight runs over four innings in a 19-1 loss to the Twins.

Greinke wasn’t the only Brewer to make history Sunday. Jonathan Lucroy drove in seven runs, tying a franchise record. He joined Carlos Ruiz (May 2, 2012) as the only catchers to have at least seven RBI in a game in the last two seasons.

Elsewhere in the majors Sunday, Max Scherzer had a career-high 15 strikeouts, one shy of a Detroit Tigers franchise record, in a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Scherzer induced 26 swings-and-misses, the most by any pitcher this season and the most since Brandon Morrow had 26 on May 5, 2010 vs the Cleveland Indians.

Scherzer became the second AL pitcher to strike out at least 15 in seven or fewer innings in the last 90 years. Baltimore Orioles starter Mike Mussina struck out 15 in seven innings against the Boston Red Sox on September 24, 2000.

In other MLB action Sunday:

" Stephen Strasburg hit his first career home run and earned the win in the Washington Nationals 9-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles. Strasburg is now hitting .375 this season and has an extra-base hit in four of his last five games.

" Josh Beckett allowed one run on seven hits as the Red Sox beat the Philadelphia Phillies 5-1. Beckett has now won consecutive starts for the first time since August 2011 and has allowed one run in his last 14T innings.

" The Phillies fell to 1-5 in Cliff Lee’s starts this season after he allowed five runs, his most since July 2011, to the Red Sox. The Phillies were 22-10 in Lee’s 32 starts last season.

Buchholz benefits from great run support

May, 16, 2012
(The Tampa Bay Rays host the Boston Red Sox, Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.)

The American League’s most methodical starting pitchers will oppose each other in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Wednesday night: the Rays' Jeremy Hellickson and the Red Sox’s Clay Buchholz.

This season, Hellickson has averaged 24.4 seconds between pitches, second in the American League among starters behind Buchholz, who averages more than 25 seconds between pitches.

In fact, Boston’s starting pitchers haven’t been shy about taking their time on the mound. Each of the Red Sox's five starters rank in the top seven in terms of slowest paces in the American League this season.

This season, Buchholz is 4-1, but he owns the highest ERA among qualified starters at 8.31. Buchholz has four wins because the Red Sox have provided him with more run support than any other starter in baseball with 9.7 runs per game.

Buchholz has been even worse on the road. In two starts he has an 11.57 ERA and a 2.46 WHIP.

Buchholz has been so bad this season because everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. Buchholz this season:

• Has allowed 10 HR in 39 innings, giving him the highest HR-per-nine-innings-pitched rate at 2.3. (In 28 starts in 2010, Buchholz allowed just nine home runs.)

• Strikes out 4.6 batters per nine innings, which is the lowest rate of his career (career average: 6.7).

• Walks more than five batters per nine innings, the highest rate of his career (career average: 3.8).

• Is one of three starters who has walked more batters than he has struck out (Ubaldo Jimenez, Derek Lowe).

What Buchholz has done well is throw first-pitch strikes. He’s tied for the American League lead with Phil Humber at 69.5 percent. However, hitters are jumping all over Buchholz, swinging at 32 percent of his first pitches, the fourth highest rate against any American League starter. When hitters put that pitch in play, their batting average is .357.

Opposing Buchholz will be Hellickson, whose start will be the 203rd straight start for the Rays by a homegrown pitcher. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no other team this season has had every game started by players originally drafted by the organization.

Hellickson this season has allowed three earned runs or fewer in six of his seven starts. The lone exception was on April 14 against the Red Sox, when he allowed five earned runs and a career-high three home runs.

Overall, his 4.99 career ERA against Boston is his highest against any team.

Hellickson hasn’t been very efficient, throwing 16.8 pitches per inning, which ranks 43rd out of 53 qualified American League starters. (Buchholz has been worse, ranking 46th with 17.5 pitches per inning.)

He’s also struggled to get the final out of innings -- 12 of his 16 walks this season have been issued with two outs.

However, in five starts since his April 14 loss to the Red Sox, Hellickson has a 1.93 ERA. In fact, the Rays' pitching has settled into being the expected dominant pitching staff. In the past 28 games, Tampa Bay is 19-9 with a league-low 2.82 ERA.

Battle of the 'burgs: Strasburg Ks Pirates

May, 11, 2012
Stephen Strasburg

In his first start against the Pittsburgh Pirates since striking out 14 in his MLB debut, falling one shy of the MLB record for strikeouts in a debut, Stephen Strasburg fanned 13 in just 6 innings Thursday night.

Strasburg deftly mixed up his fastball and off-speed pitches against Pittsburgh, registering seven strikeouts with a fastball and holding Pirates hitters to one hit with six strikeouts in eight at-bats ending with off-speed pitches.

He also kept the ball away, with 52.4 percent of his pitches (54 of 103) over the outer part of the plate. The Pirates were hitless with five strikeouts in six at-bats ending with pitches away.

And while Strasburg fell one punch-out short of his career high, he did set a personal record with 20 pitches resulting in swings-and-misses.

Strasburg’s start Thursday was the 24th of his career, making him the fifth pitcher to strike out 13 or more hitters twice his first 25 career games in the divisional era and first since Kerry Wood in 1998.

Thursday was the fourth time in Strasburg’s career he struck out at least 10 batters in a game, the most such games by a Nationals pitcher since the franchise moved to Washington in 2005. He also became the first pitcher in the history of the Nationals or Expos to register 13 strikeouts in six of fewer innings.

Elsewhere in the majors Thursday:

• Josh Hamilton homered in his second game since tying an MLB record with 4 HR on Tuesday. Hamilton, who became the first player with 6 HR in a series since Hee Seop Choi in 2005 according to Elias, now has more HR since Monday than Jose Bautista, Alex Rodriguez, Joey Votto and Albert Pujols have all season.

• Josh Beckett allowed 7 runs in just 2⅓ innings as the Boston Red Sox lost to the Cleveland Indians. It was Beckett’s first start since 2008 in which he allowed at least 7 runs in fewer than 3 innings. Boston’s six straight losses at Fenway Park matches its longest home losing streak since losing 12 home games in a row in 1994.

• Elias tells us the Baltimore Orioles became the first AL team to open a game with back-to-back-to-back HR when Ryan Flaherty, J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis homered to start the bottom of the first inning. All five of the Orioles hits were HR Thursday, making Baltimore just the third team to have five or more hits with all hits being homers in the live-ball era (since 1920).

Stats & Info insights into this morning's top sports stories

1. PENGUINS HANGING IN THERE: For the second straight game, the Pittsburgh Penguins won when facing elimination, beating the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2. The two teams have combined for 50 goals in the series, tied for the fourth-most in a NHL playoff series. FROM ELIAS: In each of the first five games of the series the team that scored the first goal lost. It’s only the third series in NHL playoff history to follow that unusual pattern; the others were Pittsburgh vs. St. Louis in 1981 and Dallas vs. San Jose in 2008.

2. YANKEES SPOIL FENWAY PARTY: The Boston Red Sox had a 100-year celebration of Fenway Park but the New York Yankees spoiled the party. Clay Buchholz allowed five HR in a 6-2 loss. FROM ELIAS: Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz have each allowed five HR in a game this season. It's the third time that a pair of pitchers on the same team gave up five plus HR in a game in one season. The other pairs: 2005 Phillies-- Vicente Padilla and Cory Lidle, and the 2009 Red Sox-- Beckett and Buchholz.

3. SPURS BLOW OUT LAKERS AGAIN: Kobe Bryant made his return after missing seven games with a shin injury, but it didn’t matter as the Los Angeles Lakers were blown out again by the San Antonio Spurs. FROM ELIAS: The Spurs are the first team to win two consecutive meetings against the Lakers by 20+ points since the Detroit Pistons in February 2005. That Pistons team reached the NBA Finals and lost to the Spurs.

4. PREDATORS BACK IN SEMIS: The Nashville Predators are the first team to advance to the conference semifinals, beating the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 in Game 5 to win the series 4-1. It’s the second straight season that the Predators have advanced to the conference semis. They didn’t win a playoff series in their previous 11 seasons. As for the Red Wings, it’s the first time they were eliminated in the conference quarterfinals since 2006.

5. SOCCER SHOWDOWN: Barcelona hosts Real Madrid in El Clįsico on Saturday, their second and final La Liga meeting of the season. With five games remaining, first-place Real Madrid leads second-place Barcelona by four points. Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo are tied for the league lead with 41 goals each this season. Both have broken the previous record of 40, set by Ronaldo last season. Barcelona is unbeaten in seven straight games against Real Madrid in all competitions, matching the longest unbeaten streak ever in the series, previously done by Real Madrid from 1932-35. Madrid hasn’t beaten Barcelona since last year’s Copa del Rey final. The match can be seen on ESPN Deportes and ESPN3 at 2 ET.

Holland has what Beckett's looking for

April, 18, 2012
The Texas Rangers put on an awesome offensive display in Tuesday's 18-3 win over the Boston Red Sox. But tonight's pitching matchup features a pair of starters with a history of shutting down their opposition.

Let's take a closer look at Derek Holland's and Josh Beckett's performance so far this season as they prepare for this Wednesday Night Baseball meeting (7 pm ET, ESPN2).

Holland successful early
Holland has a 3.37 ERA and 0.83 WHIP through his first two starts in 2012. In particular, he's rated well in getting ahead of hitters early in the count, throwing his first pitch for a strike 67 percent of the time. In each of the previous three seasons, Holland's first-pitch strike rate has hovered between 56 and 58 percent.

Holland's fastball has averaged 93.9 miles-per-hour since the start of last season, a hair behind David Price for the distinction of hardest-throwing lefty starter in the majors. His fastball averages almost a mile-per-hour more than that of CC Sabathia and Clayton Kershaw.

Holland has faced the Red Sox three times previously, winning twice and posting a 2.95 ERA. In his last start against them, he pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing just two hits in a 10-0 win at Fenway Park.

Matchup to watch: Holland has won seven of the eight head-to-head battles he's had with Dustin Pedroia, holding him to just one base hit. Pedroia has worked his share of deep counts against Holland, but did not reach base in any of the three instances in which the count ran to 3-2.

Beckett's unusual start
Beckett's fastball velocity has been an early-season storyline.

Beckett's fastball is averaging 90.6 miles-per-hour through two starts. In his 1st 2 starts, Beckett has a total of four strikeouts in 12⅔ innings pitched. It’s the first time since June 2007 that Beckett has gone consecutive starts with less than four strikeouts. Beckett has never gone three consecutive starts without registering at least four strikeouts in a game.

Beckett has been able to get to two strikes on hitters, but has not finished them off at his usual success rate.

The four whiffs have come on 24 two-strike counts, a strikeout success rate of just 17 percent. From 2009 to 2011, Beckett fanned 43 percent of hitters against whom he got a two-strike count.

Since the start of the 2010 season, Rangers hitters have the lowest strikeout rate in the majors-- having fanned in just 15 percent of their plate appearances (the average major league hitters strikes out about one out of every 5.5 plate appearances.

Matchup to watch: Josh Hamilton is 6-for-14 with two home runs in his career against Beckett, with both home runs coming in 2010. Hamilton hit a 469-foot home run in Tuesday's win, the second-longest tracked home run at Fenway Park since the start of the 2006 season (Vladimir Guerrero hit a 484-foot home run there in 2006).

Hamilton has five home runs this season, all against pitches over the inner-third or middle-third of the plate. He's also 10-for-27 (.370 BA) in at-bats ending against pitches on the outer-third of the plate or further outside. Last season, Hamilton hit .262 against pitches thrown to that area.

Hamilton hasn't hit a home run against a pitch on the outer-third of the plate this season. But Beckett allowed three home runs on outer-third pitches to lefties in his first start of the season against the Tigers.

Mark Simon also contributed to this post

Cain, others nearly pitch-perfect at home

April, 13, 2012
Nick Laham/Getty ImagesThe Yankees celebrate as they open their home schedule with a 5-0 win over the Angels.
Eight more teams had their home openers today and several of them gave the hometown fans plenty to cheer about with some spectacular pitching performances.

Cain is able
The San Francisco Giants shut out the Pittsburgh Pirates, 5-0, as Matt Cain threw a complete game one-hitter with no walks and 11 strikeouts for the win. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Cain is the only pitcher to throw a one-hitter in the team’s home opener in Giants franchise history.

The only hit Cain allowed was a single to Pirates pitcher James McDonald. Elias also tells us that Cain is the first pitcher since R.A. Dickey in 2010 to throw a 1-hitter in which the hit was allowed to the opposing pitcher. The last Giants pitcher to do it was Hal Schumacher in 1935.

Cain worked his fastball in the middle of the zone and above, throwing 48 of his 60 heaters there.

The Pirates couldn’t handle the high heat, with just one hit and four strikeouts in 14 at-bats ending with a fastball.

Of Cain's 11 strikeouts, eight were on pitches out of the zone. The Pirates swung and missed at 58 percent of Cain's pitches out of the zone.

Hello, Hiroki
The New York Yankees blanked the Los Angeles Angels, 5-0, winning for the 14th time in their last 15 home openers. Hiroki Kuroda shined in his Yankee Stadium debut, tossing eight scoreless innings to earn his first victory in pinstripes.

Kuroda is the fifth Yankee pitcher to throw eight shutout innings in his Yankee Stadium debut in the Divisional Era (since 1969) and the first to do it since Jimmy Key in 1993 against the Royals. Kuroda shut down the Angels right-handed bats, who were 2-for-14 with five strikeouts when facing Kuroda.

Beckett bounces back
The Boston Red Sox kicked off their home schedule with a much-needed victory, crushing the Tampa Bay Rays 12-2.

The Red Sox broke the game open with eight runs in the eighth inning, scoring as many runs in that frame as they had in their previous three games combined.

Josh Beckett allowed just one run in eight innings, bouncing back from his first start of the season when he allowed five home runs against the Tigers. Beckett had success throwing to the glove side, as the Rays went 0-for-7 in at-bats ending with a pitch in that location.

Peavy pitches in
The Chicago White Sox sent the defending AL Central champions home with a 5-2 loss, snapping a 6-game losing streak to the Detroit Tigers. The White Sox have now won five straight and 11 of their last 13 home openers.

jake Peavy
Jake Peavy, who went just 3-6 with a 6.11 ERA at home last season, was in fine form for the White Sox this afternoon. He allowed just two runs on two hits with eight strikeouts in 6⅔ innings to earn his first win of the season.

Peavy was able to finish off the Tigers hitters, who were 1-for-15 with eight strikeouts in at-bats ending with a two-strike count. The Detroit lineup also had trouble with his high pitches, going hitless with four strikeouts in six at-bats ending with a pitch up in the zone or above.