A visit from the Cleveland Indians has helped the Boston Red Sox round their playoff rotation into form, but the most important pitcher for the Red Sox may be the one with the biggest lingering concerns.
Josh Beckett(notes) will try to put worries about his injured back to rest in his final tuneup for the postseason Saturday night as he looks to hold down a Cleveland lineup that has been punchless lately.
Beckett was the key to Boston’s World Series run in 2007, going 4-0 with a 1.20 ERA in four postseason starts as the Red Sox won their second title in four years.
Manager Terry Francona would much rather have that pitcher than the banged-up Beckett who had an 8.79 ERA in three playoff outings last October, but it’s unclear how healthy the right-hander is after getting scratched from Monday’s start due to back spasms.
Beckett (16-6, 3.78 ERA) has received cortisone shots this week, but he pronounced himself ready to test out his back on Saturday before a likely Game 2 start in the division series next week against the Los Angeles Angels.
“We did the things that we needed to do and I feel a lot better (Tuesday) than I did (Monday),” Beckett said.
Facing the Indians for the first time this year probably won’t hurt. Since the start of 2007 - including two victories in that year’s AL championship series - Beckett is 3-2 with a 2.57 ERA against Cleveland.
Eric Wedge’s club hasn’t shown many signs of life in the manager’s final days with the Indians, who’ve scored a total of two runs in the last three games as the lame-duck skipper finishes the year following his Wednesday firing.
Cleveland (65-95) is currently tied with Kansas City as each team tries to avoid a finish in the AL Central cellar.
Jon Lester(notes) - Boston’s likely Game 1 starter in the postseason - pitched 6 1-3 dominating innings in a 3-0 win in Thursday’s series opener to rebound from a quadriceps injury, and Daisuke Matsuzaka(notes) solidified his spot in the Red Sox’s playoff rotation with six strong innings in Friday’s 6-2 victory.
For the Indians, left-hander Aaron Laffey(notes) (7-8, 3.91) will try to finish his season on a strong note after going 0-5 in September. Three of his five outings last month were quality starts, but the Indians managed a total of four runs while Laffey was in the five games.
Boston (93-67) will be without shortstop Alex Gonzalez for this game after he was hit in the hand by a Kerry Wood(notes) pitch on Friday. His status for the playoffs is now in question after X-rays showed a line on his hand, and he’ll have more tests this weekend.
“I can move it,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t feel any pain.”