Five days after winning the All-Star game for the American League, Josh Beckett can become the first 13-game winner in the major leagues.
Beckett (12-2, 3.44 ERA) is tied with Cleveland ace C. C. Sabathia for the major league lead in wins, and is a big reason why the Red Sox (55-35) own the largest division lead in baseball and are tied with the Los Angeles Angels for the best record.
Beckett’s strong first half landed him his first career All-Star appearance. The right-hander - one of six Boston players on the AL roster - pitched two scoreless innings in Tuesday’s game and got credit for the AL’s 5-4 victory.
“It’s awesome,” Beckett told the Red Sox’s official Web site after participating in the midsummer classic. “Each one of those guys should be proud to be here. I know I am. And to share that with so many individuals that I go out to battle with every day, it’s nice.”
Beckett benefited from plenty of run support in his final start before the break. He yielded three runs and nine hits in six innings against Tampa Bay on July 5, but cruised to a 15-4 win.
He is 2-2 with a 5.25 ERA in six career starts versus the Blue Jays.
Boston’s lineup has opened the season’s second half on a roll, totaling 21 runs in the first three games of this series. The Red Sox bounced back from Friday night’s 6-5 defeat with a 9-4 win on Saturday, when David Ortiz, Eric Hinske and Jason Varitek all homered to back starter Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Ortiz’s home run - a solo shot in the first inning - was the 15th of the year overall for the Boston slugger but his first at Fenway Park since April 21, a drought which spanned 129 at-bats over 34 home games.
“It’s not going to be another 129 at-bats,” said Ortiz, who hit 22 of his franchise-record 54 homers last season at Fenway.
“It could be worse. Everybody’s worried about me hitting homers. But people who may see that may be like, ‘He may not be hitting homers but the guy is hitting .320 year-round.”
With the win, Boston maintained a 10-game lead over the New York Yankees in the AL East, while the Blue Jays (44-46) fell into third place, 11 games behind the Red Sox.
Toronto, which has alternated wins and losses over its last six games, failed to return to the .500 mark for the first time since June 28.
Blue Jays rookie Jesse Litsch (1-3, 4.74) will look for his second consecutive strong outing, but hope for a better result than in his last start. The 22-year-old right-hander, who made four starts for Toronto in May, returned from the minors to face Oakland on July 3.
He surrendered only two unearned runs over seven innings in that outing, scattering seven hits and three walks, but took the tough-luck loss in Toronto’s 3-1 defeat - a contest that lasted only 2 hours, 8 minutes.
“It was a quick game and I wished it turned out a little better,” said Litsch, who has never faced the Red Sox. “I’m about as satisfied as I can be.”