The right-hander tries to become the first six-game winner in the majors and help Boston avoid a series sweep Wednesday night as the Red Sox and Oakland Athletics wrap up their two-game set at Fenway Park.
Beckett (5-0, 2.48 ERA) had his longest outing of the season last Thursday at Baltimore, allowing two runs in eight innings of Boston’s 5-2 victory. Five of the eight hits he gave up were doubles, but Beckett threw 73 of his 100 pitches for strikes and became the first Red Sox pitcher to win his first five starts of a season since Pedro Martinez in 2000.
“He pitched a whale of game,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “He wanted to go out and finish that. He probably could have.”
With a victory Wednesday, Beckett can become the first Boston pitcher since Roger Clemens in 1991 to win his first six starts of the year.
Clemens went on to win the AL Cy Young Award that season, as did Martinez in 2000.
Beckett struggled in his only three starts against the Athletics—all during 2006—going 1-2 with a 6.23 ERA.
He will try and remain perfect in 2007, something Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon was unable to do in Tuesday night’s series opener. Papelbon, who had converted all eight of his save opportunities this year without allowing a run, gave up a two-run homer to Travis Buck in the ninth to send the game to extra innings.
“You’re not going to win them all,” said Papelbon, who didn’t blow his first save last season as a rookie until June 9. “I’ll take that loss on my back and I’ll pick up the team again when they need me.”
The victory ended a stretch of four losses in five games for the A’s, who opened an eight-game trip with their third consecutive win away from home. Oakland trailed 4-0 after three innings, but chipped away after manager Bob Geren got ejected in the fifth for arguing a strikeout call.
“The second half of the game, we upped our enthusiasm,” Piazza said. “We believed we could win instead of rolling over after skipper was kicked out of the game.”
Boston (16-9) suffered its third straight home defeat after beginning the season 7-1 at Fenway.
Chad Gaudin (1-1, 2.54) takes the mound for the Athletics in the series finale. The right-hander, who had made only 10 starts in his four previous major league seasons before joining Oakland’s rotation this year, is coming off his shortest start of the season.
He gave up four runs, four hits and four walks in four innings of Friday’s 4-1 loss to Tampa Bay, throwing only 48 of his 93 pitches for strikes.
Gaudin is 1-0 with a 1.66 ERA in 13 career relief appearances versus the Red Sox.