JJ set to battle Beckett as Red Sox visit Miami
After missing out on two earlier chances to face his former team, Boston Red Sox right-hander Josh Beckett will finally get his first matchup with the Miami Marlins.
The 2003 World Series MVP will try to help stop Boston's three-game skid while sending the Marlins to a season-high seventh consecutive defeat Monday night.
Beckett's turn in the rotation came one game after Boston's last visit to Miami in 2006 and one game before a series at Fenway Park in 2009.
This time, the Marlins will get to face their former ace in the series opener at their new ballpark.
"It's pretty cool," scheduled Miami starter Josh Johnson told his team's website. "The guy is a postseason legend."
That's largely because Beckett pitched two shutouts for Florida during the 2003 playoffs, including a five-hitter at Yankee Stadium to clinch the World Series in Game 6.
Beckett was drafted second overall by the Marlins in 1999 and spent 2001-05 with the team before he was traded to Boston with Mike Lowell - later the 2007 World Series MVP for the Red Sox - and reliever Guillermo Mota.
The Marlins made out well in the deal, with shortstop Hanley Ramirez and starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez among the four prospects they received.
In his return to Miami, Beckett (4-6, 4.04 ERA) will try to deliver the second win in eight games for the Red Sox (29-31) and help them bounce back after they were swept at home by NL East-leading Washington over the weekend.
Closer Alfredo Aceves gave up the go-ahead run in the ninth inning of Sunday's 4-3 defeat.
Beckett could use a little more help from his teammates after losing his second straight start Wednesday despite allowing only two runs and five hits over eight innings against Baltimore.
"Those are eight of the best innings I've seen all year," manager Bobby Valentine told the Red Sox's website following the 2-1 defeat. "He was efficient with great stuff, all of his pitches. ... We'll take that every time out."
Beckett, 2-2 with a 2.21 ERA in his last five starts, will next get to face a Miami team that's been outscored 43-10 during an 0-6 start to its homestand.
Gaby Sanchez doubled in his team's first run during Sunday's 4-2 loss to Tampa Bay in his first game since being recalled from a three-week demotion to Triple-A New Orleans. Logan Morrison drove in the other run and finished 3 for 4 in his first start since a brief benching amid an 0-for-16 slump.
Despite those contributions, the Marlins are batting .197 during their losing streak, going 5 for 50 with runners in scoring position.
"You just have to keep grinding," Morrison said. "We need to keep putting together good at-bats, keep playing defense and just keep pitching, and the ball will fall our way."
The Marlins (31-29) will turn to Johnson (3-4, 4.56) to snap their slide. Like his counterpart, the right-hander has pitched well lately - going 3-1 with a 2.95 ERA over his last six starts - but got little support in his last outing.
He gave up two runs over 7 2-3 innings and matched a season high with nine strikeouts Wednesday against Atlanta but lost 2-1.
"It's a step in the right direction," Johnson said.
Johnson appeared in four games during Beckett's final season with the Marlins, making him the only player on the current roster who was Beckett's teammate in Miami. He allowed three runs in seven innings - including solo homers to Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz - and did not get a decision in his only start against Boston on July 2, 2006.