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Beckett the man: BoSox hurler named ALCS MVP

BOSTON -- Josh Beckett needs a bigger trophy case: Now he
has an AL Championship Series Most Valuable Player Award to go
along with his 2003 World Series MVP.

Unflappable and close to unhittable, Beckett shut down Cleveland
twice, including a victory in Game 5 that started Boston's comeback
from a 3-1 deficit in the best-of-seven series.

Beckett wasn't even needed in Sunday night's 11-2 Game 7 victory
over the Indians and will be well rested when he faces the Colorado Rockies and Jeff Francis in Wednesday night's World Series opener
at Fenway Park.

"I'm looking forward to it," Beckett said. "I'd like to have
another ring."

He had a 1.93 ERA in going 2-0 against the Indians, allowing
three runs in 14 innings. He's 3-0 with a 1.17 in three postseason
starts -- after becoming baseball's first 20-game winner since 2005
-- perhaps the biggest reason the Red Sox are back in the World
Series for the second time in four seasons.

"He's the best pitcher I've ever seen," Boston pitching coach
John Farrell said. "He's a special, special pitcher."

Beckett gave a lot of the credit to his catcher, Jason Varitek.

"I don't know if we'll cut it in half or not," Beckett said of
the award. "It's a team deal. I don't even know how I'm sitting
here holding this. There's a lot of MVPs in here to me."

After center fielder Coco Crisp made a running catch on Casey Blake's drive for the final out, Beckett ran in from bullpen,
raised his arms and hugged third baseman Mike Lowell, his former
Florida teammate, in the infield. Beckett had offered to pitch in
relief on two days' rest -- he did that for the Marlins in Game 7 of
the 2003 NL championship series -- but the Red Sox didn't need him.

At home on the mound, he was less comfortable in the unfamiliar
confines of the bullpen.

"He was like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockers,"
reliever Mike Timlin said. "He didn't know what to do, really. He
didn't know when to throw, when to warm up. He was occupying
himself. He threw a little bit on the side, played some catch with
the outfielders."

In his first season in the AL last year after being traded by
Florida, Beckett relied too much on his fastball. He finished at
16-11 with a 5.01 ERA and allowed 36 homers with 158 strikeouts and
74 walks. He was 20-7 with a 3.27 ERA this year, allowing 17
homers, striking out 194 and walking 40.

"I think maturity is the biggest thing," rotation mate Tim Wakefield said. "He's trusting himself, trusting whatever Tek is
putting down."

Beckett won the series opener, allowing two runs in six innings
of Boston's 10-3 win. Then, after Cleveland had scored 24 runs in
winning the next three games, Beckett gave up just one run in eight
dominant innings during a 7-1 win.

"The first couple of innings, you try to figure out what you've
got and what's not going for you and what's not working so well,"
Beckett said. "Don Sutton used to tell me every time you go out
there you're going to be a different guy."

Beckett is 5-2 with a 1.78 ERA in nine career postseason
appearances, numbers that bring to mind pitchers such as Bob Gibson
and Sandy Koufax. On Wednesday night, he'll be back on the biggest
stage for all to see.

"He's the best pitcher in the game right now," said Curt Schilling, the 2001 World Series co-MVP for Arizona, "and, if it's
possible, he gets better in October, and that's saying something.
He's a special, special kid with special stuff, and he's at the
beginning of a long and storied career."