Commentary

Beckett tosses yet another dominant game

Originally Published: October 24, 2007
By Amy K. Nelson | ESPN.com

BOSTON -- Around the game players may privately snicker that not only is he cocky, but he can be too demonstrative on the mound; players aren't so keen with his yelling out on the field, even if it's his domain. What they cannot argue is Josh Beckett's dominance, especially when the calendar flips to October.

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Beckett again spun his postseason magic, striking out nine in seven innings for the win in Game 1 of the World Series, a 13-1 Red Sox victory over the Rockies. Beckett struck out the first four batters he faced, and five of the first six. He faltered for a brief moment in the second inning, when Garrett Atkins just missed a home run off the Green Monster that resulted in a double and one batter later, Troy Tulowitzki doubled him home.

But that was it for trouble, as Beckett yielded just four more hits over the next five innings. He took the team that was a winner in 21 of its last 22 games -- and which had swept its first two series in the playoffs -- and rendered it ineffective.

"It's been a remarkable run for him, particularly this postseason" said Red Sox reliever Kyle Snyder of Beckett. "He truly is coming into his own. He's executing his delivery every single time out, from start to finish. It's been great to watch."

Though Beckett would never say so, the Rockies looked feeble against the Red Sox's fireballing ace. Beckett is just 27, but already he has established himself as the game's premier postseason pitcher.

"I think I've been doing the same thing in October that I was doing during the season," Beckett said before Game 1. "Just comes down to executing pitches. They always say it's easy when you've got all your stuff going for you."

And as it has all postseason, his stuff was in fine form on Wednesday night, so much so that this must be considered: Beckett's tossed a collective 30 innings in the 2007 postseason and allowed just four runs, striking out 35 and walking just two during that span. He improved to 6-2 lifetime in October (with four wins this postseason) while lowering his postseason ERA to 1.71.

Among pitchers who've thrown at least 70 innings in the postseason, only Mariano Rivera (0.77) and Christy Mathewson (1.15) own a better ERA.

"He's been huge for us," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "To win you have to have guys like that. Every time we've gone to him, he's given us a great outing and we certainly hope that continues."

[+] EnlargeJosh Beckett
Brad Mangin/MLB Photos via Getty ImagesJosh Beckett had nine strikeouts and earned the win in Game 1, raising his record to 4-0 in this year's postseason.
What perhaps set the tone more than anything was the first inning, when he struck out the side in order. (His fourth straight strikeout to open the second inning made him the first pitcher since Sandy Koufax in 1963 to fan the first four batters he faced in a World Series game.)

Snyder said that for a team that was as hot as the Rockies, and with as much talk about their eight-day layoff, it had to have a psychological effect.

"It's very difficult to simulate game speed," Snyder said. "But when you have a pitcher of [Josh's] caliber taking the mound in Game 1 of the World Series in this type of environment and he comes out and strikes out the side in the first inning, that's an incredibly dominant way to start a game. I can see it having a considerable effect on their psyche."

The Rockies had good reason to enter the game with confidence, since the last time they faced Beckett at Fenway Park was earlier this season when they scored six runs and got 10 hits off him in five innings for a 7-1 win. Beckett for his part said he didn't look at the tape.

"I try not to harp on the negative things too much," he said. "Obviously, that wasn't a start I want to go back and replay in my mind."

Colorado might have, since it was unable to manufacture much against the MVP of the American League Championship Series.

As for Beckett, he's not much into delving into any meaning or reason behind what he does.

"I hope my teammates are happy," Beckett said. "That's who I'm really here to please. If they're happy, I'm happy."

Amy K. Nelson is a staff writer for ESPN.com.