There are no mulligans in baseball. Even if there were, the Boston Red Sox starting rotation would be out of them.
One night after Josh Beckett got hit hard by the Cleveland Indians and then lustily booed off the Fenway Park mound, his golfing partner Clay Buchholz will get the ball Friday night trying to help the Red Sox avoid their longest home losing streak in 18 years.
Mired in the AL East basement, Boston (12-19) opened this four-game series Thursday night with an 8-3 loss to AL Central-leading Cleveland (18-13) that may have been less competitive than the score would indicate. Beckett, who had skipped his previous start due to lat soreness that wasn't severe enough to prevent him from going golfing during his absence, gave up seven runs in 2 1-3 innings and the Red Sox never recovered.
"You never want to get booed at your home stadium,'' Indians left fielder and former Red Sox star Johnny Damon said after the Fenway Park fans jeered Beckett as he left the game. "He's a great pitcher. Had a bad night. He helped bring another championship here, but as we all know that can get lost in time.''
Beckett's brutal outing increased the ERA of Boston's starting rotation to 6.01 for the season, and 11.25 during a six-game home losing streak. The Red Sox haven't lost seven in a row at Fenway since a 12-game skid June 3-29, 1994. Due largely to the horrible starting pitching, the Red Sox are 5-18 when they fail to score 10 runs.
"It's challenging every night,'' said manager Bobby Valentine, whose club has dropped three straight overall and eight of nine. "The guys are doing a great job and I tip my cap to them and the offense. We were a bloop away from getting back into this game four different times.''
As poorly as Boston's starters have pitched as a whole, none has struggled as much as Buchholz (3-1, 9.09 ERA). The right-hander, who reportedly accompanied Beckett on his golf outing last week, owns both the highest ERA and the highest opponent batting average (.343) among major league qualifiers.
Buchholz has allowed five runs or more in all six of his starts in 2012. He surrendered five runs, seven hits - three homers - and four walks in a season-low 3 2-3 innings Sunday, a game the Red Sox lost 9-6 in 17 innings to Baltimore.
Buchholz will be opposed by Ubaldo Jimenez (3-2, 4.04), who is coming off his finest start of the season. The right-hander issued five walks Sunday, but limited powerful Texas to two hits in seven scoreless innings of the Indians' 4-2 victory.
Now, Jimenez's challenge will be to take his success on the road. He has a 2.70 ERA and .134 opponent batting average in three outings in Cleveland, but a 5.74 ERA in three starts away from home while allowing opponents to hit .338.
Jimenez struggled in his only previous outing against the Red Sox on June 23, 2010, giving up six runs and 10 hits over 5 2-3 innings and not getting a decision for Colorado.
Jack Hannahan hit a two-run homer and Jason Kipnis added a solo shot off Beckett on Thursday for the Indians, who avoided their first three-game losing streak of the season as they opened a six-game road trip.