Josh Beckett did exactly what he needed to satisfy the fired-up fans at Fenway Park.
Beckett pitched his best game of the season, striking out nine and scattering four hits over seven innings as the Red Sox shut out the Seattle Mariners 5-0 on Tuesday, extending Boston’s winning streak to five.
Beckett hit 93 mph on the first pitch he threw and struck out leadoff batter Dustin Ackley, quickly establishing he was well past his poor start of last week.
”I don’t think I was trying to make a statement,” Beckett said. ”I don’t even know that I did. Location was key for me today, I just kept the ball down.”
The timing couldn’t have been better. Beckett lasted less than three innings in a start against Cleveland on Thursday, when he was booed off the mound after allowing seven runs on seven hits.
Beckett (3-4), who was also celebrating his 32nd birthday, was still going strong through seven innings but manager Bobby Valentine pulled him before the eighth inning as a cold rain started to get heavier.
Rich Hill and Alfredo Aceves pitched an inning each to complete the shutout, which capped a 5-1 homestand for the Red Sox.
”You just want to keep your team in the game. The starters have been doing that lately, and it’s nice to keep that going,” Beckett said. ”It’s nice. These guys have been playing their butts off all year. It’s nice to be able to keep that going.”
Beckett also improved his status among Boston fans, who already were seething last week over news Beckett had played golf the week before after being scratched from a start because of back stiffness. They unloaded on him as he made his way to the dugout, Beckett’s head down the entire way.
Beckett didn’t give the fans a much of a chance to boo him in this outing. After he fanned Ackley, Beckett picked up two more strikeouts in the second and then struck out the side in the third with the game still scoreless.
”Josh was the king of the hill today,” Valentine said. ”Josh has things that motivate him, and he was certainly motivated today. He’s one of our big boys. He doesn’t need to follow. He can lead, and he wanted to today.”
David Ortiz hit his eighth homer and scored a run after putting down a surprise bunt to lead off the fifth inning. Mike Aviles hit a pair of doubles and drove in two runs for the Red Sox, who are one win shy of tying their longest winning streak of the season.
The Mariners fell to 1-4 on a 10-game road trip and were shut out for the fifth time this season. Blake Beavan (1-4) went four innings, allowing three runs on five hits and two walks.
A couple of defensive blunders, including a missed foul popup and blown double-play, also didn’t help.
”We cost ourselves a couple of runs with the defense today. No doubt,” manager Eric Wedge said. ”No errors, but we make a couple of plays there it saves us a couple of runs and in that type of ballgame that’s a considerable difference.”
Ichiro Suzuki was the only Seattle player with more than one hit, singling twice. The Mariners thought they had a run in the second on Justin Smoak’s high shot to the right-field corner, but first base umpire Eric Cooper called it a foul ball and the call stood after a video review.
Smoak, who ended up striking out, felt he was robbed of a home run.
”From my view, which is right down the line, it went right over the pole,” Smoak said. ”They looked at it. They don’t have the camera angles here because it being an old stadium and stuff like that. So the angle they had really didn’t show anything.”
The game remained scoreless until Ortiz led off the third with a solo shot into the Red Sox bullpen on a 3-2 pitch. Boston added two more runs in the fourth when Cody Ross walked with one out, Daniel Nava singled and Aviles hit an RBI double. Nava scored on Ryan Sweeney’s groundout.
Ortiz caught the Mariners – and everybody else at Fenway Park – off-guard when he laid a bunt down the third-base line for a leadoff single in the fifth. Seattle’s infield was shifted toward the right and nobody had a chance to field the ball in time.
Ortiz advanced to second when Adrian Gonzalez hit a grounder and shortstop Munenori Kawasaki pulled his foot off second base before throwing out Gonzalez at first. Ortiz took third on Charlie Furbush’s wild pitch to Will Middlebrooks, who followed with a line drive single.
”We’re going to bring some positive around here,” second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. ”We played good today. we’ve been playing good so we’ve just got to keep it rolling.”
NOTES: Retired knuckleballer Tim Wakefield threw out the ceremonial first pitch after the Red Sox honored him with a pregame ceremony for his 17 seasons in Boston. Wakefield’s No. 49 was also cut into the grass in center field. … Beckett’s previous this season eight strikeouts on April 29 against the White Sox. … Seattle continues its long road trip Wednesday, opening a two-game series in Cleveland followed by three games at Colorado in interleague play.