Beckett goes for win No. 21 Thursday night when he takes the mound against the Minnesota Twins in the opener of a season-ending four-game series.
Beckett (20-6, 3.14 ERA) is looking to end his best regular season with a fifth consecutive victory after another outstanding performance Friday in an 8-1 win at Tampa Bay. The All-Star right-hander held the Devil Rays to one run and four hits with eight strikeouts in six innings to get his 20th win and improve to 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 28 innings over four September outings.
“Twenty wins, it means a lot,” said Beckett, who is likely to be the only 20-game winner in the majors. “A lot of hard work from different people, and they picked me up on days when I was not 100 percent. It takes a lot of people to win that many games. I don’t know if I can take credit for all of it.”
Beckett will now try to become the first Boston pitcher to win 21 contests in a season since Curt Schilling did it in 2004, the year the Red Sox won the World Series to end an 86-year drought.
Beckett matching Schilling’s mark could help the Red Sox (94-64) clinch their first AL East title since 1995, ending a nine-year reign by the rival New York Yankees. Boston’s magic number is two, so a win coupled with a New York loss at Tampa Bay on Thursday will secure the division.
The Red Sox got closer to that achievement with an 11-6 win over Oakland on Wednesday as the offense produced 17 hits.
“We were happy being in the playoffs with the wild card,” Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz said. “But we played good all year. We wanted to see if we could win the division. It hasn’t been done in a while.”
Third baseman Mike Lowell reached another Red Sox’s milestone Wednesday, going 3-for-5 with five RBIs to give him 116, surpassing Butch Hobson’s single-season record of 112 for a third baseman set in 1977.
Minnesota (77-81), meanwhile, is coming off a rain-shortened 9-4 loss at Detroit on Wednesday.
The Twins turn to slumping Boof Bonser (7-12, 5.09), who was tagged for five runs and eight hits in three innings of his first career relief outing in an 8-3 loss to Chicago on Saturday, his first outing since Sept. 10.
“I haven’t seen the field in a little while, but don’t get me wrong: I would’ve loved to have thrown three zeros on the board, too,” Bonser said. “I made some bad pitches, and they hit ‘em. I made some good pitches, and they hit ‘em. I guess it was the worst luck.”
The right-hander is closing out a difficult second season in the majors after showing promise as a rookie in 2006, when he went 7-6 with a 4.22 ERA in 18 starts. He has been in a tailspin since starting the season 5-2 with a 4.21 ERA in his first 13 starts, going 2-10 with a 5.76 ERA in his last 17 games.
Bonser now returns to the rotation looking to end his season on a positive note. He won his only career start against the Red Sox, allowing two runs and seven hits in seven innings of an 8-2 victory on Sept. 20, 2006, at Fenway Park. He held Lowell hitless in three at-bats.
The Twins have to win their final four games to avoid their first losing season since 2000.