Rough night for Beckett, Kazmir

Rough night for Beckett, Kazmir

ST. PETERSBURG -- Josh Beckett, who already had the pedigree, and Scott Kazmir, who has the promise, are a pair of Texan pitch-slingers who were expected to turn Game 2 of the American League Championship Series into a Hold 'Em draw.

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Instead, both folded their hands in the fifth inning of Tampa Bay' 9-8, 11-inning heart-stopper on Saturday-Sunday in Tropicana Field.

The Red Sox and the Rays wound up taking turns doing the Texas two-step atop each other's starting pitchers.

Whatever records may have been expected to emerge from their duel, one for the most home runs in a postseason game was not among them. But each served up three of the eventual total of seven, which matched a record accomplished thrice previously.

The rest of their tale of the tape measure: 4 1/3 innings apiece, combined total of 15 hits and 13 runs.

The teams' respective bullpens then did a masterful job of damage control. They turned graffiti into calligraphy, taming a wild game into a taut pitchers' duel.

Just not the one most people expected.

"Both starters seemed to kind of have the same problem," said Boston manager Terry Francona, meaning too many deep counts and too many deep drives. "Both teams went about it a little differently, and got to the same place in the end."

Look out for the long ball
Josh Beckett had yielded only six homers in 77 2/3 postseason innings prior to Saturday, but he gave up three in 4 1/3 innings in Game 2 of the ALCS.
W
L
IP
H
ER
HR
Prior
6
2
77 2/3
49
18
6
Saturday
0
0
4 1/3
9
8
3

Beckett allowed more earned runs Saturday night (eight) than in his previous 57 1/3 postseason innings combined (seven).

His damage wouldn't have been as extensive had Francona given him an ordinary hook, when it became apparent he wasn't battling with all his bullets.

"He made some mistakes and he paid for them," summarized Francona. "He tried to throw a fastball into [Cliff] Floyd and he didn't get it in [resulting in a leadoff homer in the fourth]. To [Evan] Longoria, changeup wandered back over the plate [two-run homer in the first]. And he tried to throw a fastball away to [B.J.] Upton, and left it over the middle [solo homer in the third].

"He paid for all of them."

But sensing this would be a game of attrition that would empty out his bullpen, Francona pushed Beckett, and pushed his luck. He sent him back to the mound for the fifth inning, even though he had already allowed five runs, and kept him there to face Longoria, who had already taken him over the fence once and to the fence another time.

Kazmir vs. White Sox in Game 2 of ALDS
IP
H
ER
BB
SO
HR
Pitches
First inning
1
3
2
1
1
0
37
Rest of game
4 1/3
5
0
1
3
0
61
Total
5 1/3
8
2
2
4
0
98
Kazmir vs. Red Sox in Game 2 of ALCS
IP
H
ER
BB
SO
HR
Pitches
First inning
1
2
2
2
2
0
38
Rest of game
3 1/3
4
3
1
0
3
60
Total
4 1/3
6
5
3
2
3
98

"He's tough. He battles," Longoria said of Beckett. "Whether he has his best stuff or not, he goes out and gives a solid effort. You could just see it in his eyes: He didn't want to come out; he's such a competitor."

Longoria's third Beckett blow, an RBI double into the left-field corner to crack a 6-6 tie, finally ended the pitcher's night.

"We wanted Beckett to get through that fifth and set up our bullpen," admitted Francona, "and it didn't work."

Except for his sterling postseason resume -- Francona had recently called him "the best postseason pitcher maybe in the history of the game" -- Beckett's stagger wasn't an unexpected shock.

Fighting through late-season shoulder inflammation, Beckett had been knocked around for 16 hits and eight runs in the 11 innings of his last regular-season start and Division Series outing against the Angels.

Faltering this fall
Josh Beckett struggled in Game 2 on Saturday, giving him back-to-back tough outings in what has been an otherwise stellar postseason career.
Year
IP
W
L
ERA
H
R
BB
K
2003
42.2
2
2
2.11
21
10
12
47
2007
30
4
0
1.20
19
4
2
35
2008
9.1
0
0
11.57
18
12
5
11
Total
82
6
2
2.85
58
26
19
93

But Kazmir's inability to help exploit his mound opponent's problems was a bigger letdown for the Rays.

However, his manager was left unshaken. Consequently, Joe Maddon will leave his rotation also unshaken.

"I believe, at any moment he's going to find his groove," Maddon said of his young lefty. "And this young man is a big part of our future. As he continues down the road, you're going so see this guy pitch very, very well.

"So for now, he's going to be pitching in Boston (Game 5, on Thursday), and I really believe in him, and I know it's going to turn out well."

Considering how well Kazmir's Game 2 meltdown turned out, ultimately not dooming his team's chances, Maddon's optimism was not misplaced.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.