One can argue Josh Beckett has been at times disconnected from the rabid Boston Red Sox fan base given his responses to closely scrutinized actions.
There is no debate, however, that his last start was very disappointing.
The embattled right-hander - who steered clear of controversy between starts this time out - looks to avoid losing a third consecutive outing Tuesday night when the Red Sox wrap up their two-game series with the Seattle Mariners.
Beckett (2-4, 5.97 ERA) caused a mini-maelstrom in Massachusetts on Thursday when he allowed as many runs and hits as outs recorded - seven - in an 8-3 defeat to Cleveland. While one bad outing may incur the wrath of some fans in Boston, the pile-on came because Beckett opted to play golf one day after he was scratched from his prior scheduled start due to a sore lat muscle in his back.
Generally prickly when it comes to dealing with the media, Beckett made no apologies for his round of golf with teammate Clay Buchholz, saying, "We get 18 off-days a year. I think we deserve a little bit of time to ourselves," but did note later he deserved the booing he got upon leaving his shortest outing in nearly four years.
However, facing the Mariners (16-21) has proven to be a cure-all most times for Beckett, who is 6-2 with a 3.39 ERA against them. He has been dominant versus Seattle at Fenway Park, winning all four of his starts while posting a 1.98 ERA and striking out 27 in 27 1-3 innings.
Beckett has not lost three straight outings since July 19-30, 2008.
The Red Sox (16-19) are hoping Beckett can bounce back while adding to their best run at Fenway this season. They won their fourth straight there with Monday's 6-1 victory as Daniel Nava and Kelly Shoppach hit fourth-inning homers to break open the game and back Jon Lester's eight-hitter.
"We're trying to build a foundation of confidence in our team," manager Bobby Valentine said.
Seattle has dropped nine of 10 on the road and 11 of 16 overall. During that 10-game road slump, the Mariners are averaging 2.3 runs and batting .229. While Ichiro Suzuki is hitting .333 (14 for 42) in that span, he only has one RBI, and that has manager Eric Wedge looking for more from his veteran outfielder.
"I'm hoping we can get a little more production out of the 3-spot, out of Ichiro, driving in runs," he said. "He's the one veteran we've got in the lineup and he has to produce for us."
Suzuki has had middling success versus Beckett, going 7 for 30 with a homer and eight strikeouts.
Seattle scheduled starter Blake Beavan (1-3, 4.32) was given an extra two days to recover after being hit on the right arm by a line drive in his May 7 start against Detroit that knocked him out of the game after three innings.
The 22-year-old right-hander hasn't gotten much support in his six starts - a total of 10 runs, nine of which have come in two outings - but Beavan also had allowed at least three runs in his prior four starts before facing the Tigers.
The Red Sox hit Beavan hard in dealing him two losses last year, totaling nine runs and 20 hits in 13 innings. David Ortiz is 3 for 7 with a homer and a double, Adrian Gonzalez is 3 for 6 with two doubles and Dustin Pedroia has a pair of two-base hits in six at-bats versus Beavan.