Commentary

Josh Beckett an all-around success

Updated: July 4, 2011, 12:06 AM ET
By Steven Krasner | Special to ESPNBoston.com

HOUSTON -- The pregame news for Josh Beckett was satisfying. He was named to the All-Star team for the third time in his career.

But the right-hander wouldn't allow himself to celebrate the news when he got the word from manager Terry Francona on Sunday morning. He couldn't totally savor the moment because he had a game to pitch against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park, in front of his hometown family and friends, no less.

With his focus unshaken, Beckett, a native of nearby Spring, Texas, continued his comeback season of excellence by allowing five hits, one run and fanning a season-high 11 along the way in his 102-pitch, eight-inning outing. And Kevin Youkilis' two-out, tie-breaking bases-loaded walk in the ninth inning made Beckett a 2-1 winner in Boston's final interleague game of the season.

[+] EnlargeJosh Beckett
Bob Levey/Getty ImagesJosh Beckett has pitched at least six innings and allowed no more than five hits in his past nine starts, a Red Sox first.

The three-game sweep of the woeful Astros gave the Sox a four-game winning streak and allowed Boston to finish the road trip with a 5-4 record and complete interleague play with a 10-8 mark.

Beckett, meanwhile, was rewarded for another strong outing. His record is only 7-3 because of poor run support, but his ERA dipped to 2.12, second best in the league.

Sunday's game marked the ninth consecutive start in which he has gone at least six innings and surrendered no more than five hits, the longest such streak in Sox history. It's quite a reversal from Beckett's injury-plagued 2010 season, in which he went 6-6 with a 5.78 ERA in 21 starts.

"I thought he was tremendous," manager Terry Francona said. "He was great and he had to be because we didn't have a whole lot going."

Beckett's success has come not only from a sizzling fastball and improved curveballs and changeups, but also his focus and bulldog-like attitude on the mound. Clearly he has regained his ace status, and players around the league have noticed. They voted him to be on the American League's All-Star team.

And what does the selection mean to the 6-foot-5, 225-pounder?

"It means I'm an All-Star. That's pretty good. It's an honor," said Beckett, who also was chosen in 2007 and 2009.

"I was voted in by my peers again. I wouldn't have it any other way. It's a special way to be voted in, by people you compete against," Beckett said.

Beckett, who said he was surprised more Red Sox didn't make it, a common refrain in Boston's clubhouse Sunday, tried to put the All-Star news in the back of his mind after he heard it.

"It's one of those deals where I didn't want it to become a distraction," Beckett said. "Obviously I was happy, but you have to go out and do your job."

When he got to the mound, Beckett was dealing. He coughed up a few hard-hit balls in the first inning -- one-out singles by Clint Barmes and Hunter Pence and a Carlos Lee lineout -- but found his rhythm and began mowing down the Astros. Beckett retired 10 in a row after Pence's hit.

The Astros, though, nicked him for a run in the fifth on a double by Brett Wallace and a pinch-hit single by Angel Sanchez, tying the game at 1, the wasteful Sox (12 left on base) having scored an unearned run in the fourth.

But Beckett, who had at least one strikeout in every inning except the eighth, held off the Astros. And Drew Sutton, who had pinch-hit for Beckett in the ninth, scored the winning run after drawing a walk, helping Beckett claim a well-deserved win. Closer Jonathan Papelbon helped out too, fanning three in a dominant, one-hit ninth for his 17th save.

"The guys came through," Beckett said.

So the bottom line is that Beckett is over the sickness that shut him down for 12 days prior to his return last Tuesday in Philadelphia, he got a win when his teammates scratched out a run in the ninth and he's an All-Star again.

Life is good for Josh Beckett. He planned a muted celebration on the flight home to Boston, where the Sox will open a seven-game homestand against Toronto on Monday afternoon.

"I think I'll have a Lone Star Light [beer] on the plane," said the Lone Star State native.

He certainly earned it.

Steven Krasner is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.

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