The last time Josh Beckett started against the Kansas City Royals, he pitched eight shutout innings and signed a three-year, $30 million contract extension on the same day. If he can duplicate that effort this time and help pull the Boston Red Sox out of their slump, he’ll really be earning his money.
Beckett takes the mound hoping to help the slumping Red Sox avoid a season high-tying fourth consecutive loss when they continue their three-game series with the Royals on Wednesday at Kauffman Stadium.
Following a 13-5 victory over Oakland on July 25, the Red Sox (65-46) were a season-high 23 games above .500 and led the New York Yankees by 2 1/2 games in the AL East. Boston has since dropped eight of 12 to fall two games behind the Yankees in the division and one game back of the Chicago White Sox in the wild-card race.
Pitching problems have helped bring on the slide. The Red Sox have allowed five runs or more in 11 of their last 12 games and the starting rotation has been especially bad over that span, combining for a 6.20 ERA and .333 batting average against.
Beckett (13-6, 5.00 ERA) fared poorly his last time out, giving up seven runs and 11 hits in six innings of last Thursday’s 7-6 defeat to Cleveland. He also allowed three home runs, increasing his major league-leading total to 31 on the season.
“I didn’t execute pitches,” Beckett said. “That loss is on me, it’s not on anybody else.”
Beckett dominated the Royals in his only career start against them, though, allowing just four hits while striking out seven and not issuing a walk in Boston’s 1-0 victory on July 19 at Fenway Park. The Red Sox announced his contract extension after that contest.
“He threw the ball so well, I think (general manager) Theo (Epstein) just gave him a three-year deal,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.
Boston dropped Tuesday night’s series opener 6-4 despite David Ortiz’s major league-leading 41st home run of the season. Wily Mo Pena added a two-run shot and Manny Ramirez went 2-for-4 to extend his career-long hitting streak to 23 games, also the longest in the AL this season.
Ramirez is batting .393 with eight doubles, seven homers and 24 RBIs during the run, raising his average to .319.
Emil Brown went 2-for-4 with three RBIs Tuesday to lead the Royals (39-73), who snapped a four-game losing skid and won for just the second time in eight games on their homestand.
“We have to win to get to the playoffs, and we’re not playing against a first-place team,” Ortiz said. “We’ve got to try to play better. There is a reason why they are in last place.”
The Royals send left-hander Mark Redman (7-6, 5.38) to the mound Wednesday. After winning six straight decisions leading up to the All-Star break, Redman is 1-2 with a 5.72 ERA in his last five starts.
He opposed Beckett in Boston on July 19 and allowed just one run and seven hits while striking out a season-high nine over eight innings in the loss. Redman is 1-8 with a 7.97 ERA in 10 career appearances against the Red Sox.