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Scott Pianowski

Closing Time: Josh Beckett keeps torching your ERA

Scott Pianowski
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Casual Friday rules apply and we head straight to the bulletry:

It's been a frustrating year to be a Boston Red Sox fan, and the aggravation level has been particularly high this week. Thursday's ninth-inning loss at Toronto was a stomach-puncher all the way, and Friday's defeat in Arlington wasn't much easier.

Let's run through the newest of annoyances, everything that went down Friday. It's frustrating to lose when you hit five homers; it's a kick in the teeth when you can't hold an 8-2 lead; it's hard to watch Jacoby Ellsbury(notes) leave a ballgame with another injury (tweaked side, MRI to come); and just about any Josh Beckett(notes) start this year is like watching a train wreck.

Beckett got a no-decision for his five innings (10 H, 6 R, 1 BB, 4 K, 3 HR), and he's now got a 6.51 ERA and 1.54 WHIP on the year. You'll hear some apologists forgiving Beckett for his recent struggles – the Yankees got him on Sunday night – but where are the safe landing spots for Beckett? His career ERA at Fenway Park is 4.60. He's got awful numbers in New York and Toronto for his career. Tampa Bay remains a tricky matchup. It astounds me that his name brand has held on as long as it has, and it sure looks like the Sox are going to regret that four-year, $68 million package they handed to Beckett earlier this season.

Beckett has a pair of home starts up next, against the Angels and Mariners. You're on your own with the first one; obviously the second one should be a good spot.

On the flip side, everything's coming up roses for the Rangers these days. They found a way to win on Friday despite Tommy Hunter's(notes) batting practice session (four homers allowed), and the Texas bullpen did what it needed at the end of this keg-tapper (four scoreless innings, including two from Neftali Feliz(notes)). Texas hasn't gotten much from its NL imports – Jorge Cantu(notes), Cristian Guzman(notes) and Bengie Molina(notes) aren't hitting a lick these days – but there are some intriguing deep-league rentals to be had in this lineup, specifically outfielder David Murphy(notes) and first base Mitch Moreland(notes).

And no, I don't think Nelson Cruz's(notes) game-winning homer has landed yet.

The Arcadians were restless when Tim Hudson(notes) was slotted as a $19-20 arm in a midseason Shuffle Up and Deal, but it turns out that price was lower than it should have been. The Hudson domination tour continued against the Dodgers on Friday, as he posted eight bagels and cruised to his 14th victory. You know all about the dominant ground-ball rate here, and a 2.13 ERA and 1.07 WHIP go a long way. Get out the list of elbow replacement success stories, it's time to make another entry.

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Jonathan Broxton is getting a temporary demotion from his closer spot in LA, but that doesn't mean everything is simple in the Dodgers bullpen. Hong-Chih Kuo(notes) will be Option 1 to close but he seldom works on consecutive days given his physical history; there's a limit to how much we can expect here. Octavio Dotel(notes) is the next option and he would have received the ninth inning on Friday had the Dodgers been ahead. Electric rookie Kenley Jansen(notes) is also around; you can almost hear his rookie stats shouting out "here I am now, entertain me."

The committee is alive and well in Washington, where Sean Burnett(notes) got six straight outs (and four strikeouts) over a tidy two-inning save Friday. And what's keeping you from that Ian Desmond(notes) pickup? He rapped out three more hits from the No. 2 slot in the order, and he's got a .349/.378/.581 line for the month. Don't worry, his constant rock pulling in the field won't hurt you one bit.

Jake Westbrook is doing pretty much what was expected of him when he got the move to St. Louis; he's been solid in all three of his turns. He held the Cubs to two runs over six innings Friday, then watched his mates secure the victory (sizzling Albert Pujols(notes) hit another one out, while Ryan Franklin(notes) cruised in the ninth). Westbrook looks like a decent play at home against Milwaukee next week – keep in mind the Cardinals play much better at Busch Stadium (39-18).

Jeremy Guthrie is doing everything he can to get our attention. He threw six shutout innings at the Rays on Friday and won for the third straight time. Guthrie has allowed just seven runs over his six starts, piling up 24 strikeouts against seven walks. The Mariners are a friendly matchup for him next week.

It's a little silly that Brett Myers(notes) only had eight wins because he's been on the mark in the vast majority of his turns. He went seven strong against Pittsburgh (7 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 K) but the Astros didn't turn the game around until Myers was removed from the decision. He's at home against the Mets next week, a solid spot. Brandon Lyon(notes) allowed a couple of baserunners in the ninth but worked out of it for the save; Matt Lindstrom(notes) is still dealing with a cranky back.

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The knuckleball remains the most fickle pitch in all of creation, and R.A. Dickey(notes) reminded us of that over the last six days. The Phillies pounded the righty back on Aug. 8 (eight hits, six runs) but Dickey got his revenge on Friday with a brilliant one-hit shutout (one walk, seven strikeouts, 105 pitches). Cole Hamels(notes) had the only hit for the Phillies, and he also had to settle for another tough-luck defeat; he's winless over his last six starts despite the fact that he's only allowed 10 runs over that span. Fill in your own rant about pitching wins here.

Speed Round: When Michael Stanton(notes) gets locked in, he gets locked in – he's clocked four homers and nine hits over his last three games. Alas, he was the only Marlin who did anything of note in Friday's loss to the Reds. … Chase Utley(notes) (thumb) is going to start a rehab assignment on Friday. … Chipper Jones(notes) wants to take the rehab-and-return route with his ACL injury, which is good news for anyone who likes baseball. … The Giants don't seem to care too much about outfield defense, so their pickup of Jose Guillen(notes) makes perfect sense. Aubrey Huff(notes) returns to first base. … The Cubs think there's a good chance Aramis Ramirez(notes) (ribs) will be back in the lineup Saturday. … Jed Lowrie(notes) was forced out of Friday's game with heat exhaustion. If you've been to a game in Arlington recently, you're not at all surprised. Lowrie homered before he left the game, and he also lost an extra-base hit courtesy of Mr. Josh Hamilton.

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