Beckett wins showdown, takes charge in Cy chase
It was billed by many as a showdown of the American League’s Cy Young Award contenders, which must have come as news to, say, Justin Verlander (17-5) and the great C.C. Sabathia (17-7).
But you know how it goes. Josh Beckett [stats] pitches for the Red Sox [team stats] and Chien-Ming Wang pitches for the Yankees. A Sox-Yankees game is always guaranteed to be a headline maker anyway, whatever the names of the starting pitchers, but this Sox-Yankees game, played late yesterday afternoon at Fenway Park [map], had that added measure of sexiness that we media people - and, yes, you fans - just love.
Look at it another way: While each team has its tough-guy offensive stars - Manny Ramirez [stats] and David Ortiz [stats] for the Red Sox, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter for the Yankees - can we all agree that neither of baseball’s leading money-bags franchises would be in contention right now without their aces?
Josh Beckett. Chien-Ming Wang. Cy Young. Nuf Ced.
Let the record show that Beckett, improving to 19-6 with seven innings of one-run ball in the Red Sox’ 10-1 victory over the Yankees, won the showdown on points, if not by the knockout that some Sox fans might have been looking for.
Remember, there is fresh, new bad blood between these teams. Yankees rookie Joba Chamberlain rode a couple of pitches up and in on Kevin Youkilis [stats] in New York a couple of weeks ago, and here was Youkilis yesterday, taking one from Wang on the wrist and having to leave the game. To add to the drama, the Red Sox’ Eric Hinske plowed into Yankees catcher Jorge Posada as he was being thrown out at the plate during a three-run Boston sixth.
Beckett was bound to somehow get involved in all this. The only question was whether he’d be able to achieve the delicate balancing act of nailing somebody without getting thrown out of the game or causing his team to unravel.
He pulled it off. With two out and nobody on in the seventh inning, he threw a pitch that hit big Jason Giambi on the right side. Warnings to both sides were issued, Giambi took his base without raising a fuss, and then, after allowing a soft single to center by Robinson Cano, Beckett blew away Melky Cabrera.
The day, the game, the showdown was effectively over at that point. The Red Sox had their payback, such as it was, but what’s more, they had a victory over the Yankees, ending a streak of five straight losses to their longtime rivals from the Bronx.
“He pitched like the ace of a staff today,” pronounced Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “Against the best lineup in baseball he went out there and did exactly what we needed.”
By “exactly what we needed,” the understanding here is that what was needed was a victory, which Beckett delivered. What also was needed, perhaps, was a little gamesmanship by the Red Sox, after Youkilis was hit. And, no, Hinske barreling into Posada does not count in the payback department, since, as Beckett pointed out, “I don’t think anybody’s ever going to question Eric Hinske on how he plays the game. . . . He plays the game right. Obviously you don’t want anybody to get hurt in a collision like that, but that’s the right play there. I don’t think anybody on their side thought that was dirty or anything. . . . Everybody that watched the game knows that was a clean deal.”
OK. Fine. So then Beckett drills Giambi. Any concerns by Beckett that things might get a little crazy?
“No,” Beckett said. “Everybody’s just trying to grind it out. We’re playing against a tough team and I’m sure they’ll say the same thing. They knew they were playing against a tough team also. That’s why our games usually last between 12 and 13 hours a day.”
Actually, Yankees manager Joe Torre had a slightly different take on Beckett hitting Giambi.
“I am not going to comment on that,” he said.
But the never-ending story that is Youkilis vs. the Yankees began Wang’s unraveling. For after the apparently much-disliked (by the Yankees) Youkilis took that Wang pitch off the wrist in the fifth inning and had to leave the game, his pinch runner, Jacoby Ellsbury, would score when J.D. Drew [stats] sliced a single to left. And in the sixth, the “pitchers’ duel” aspect of this day went bye-bye, what with the Sox scoring three more runs.
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