Published April 15, 2011
| Associated Press
BOSTON – Josh Beckett's fine start has been overshadowed by Boston's miserable opening to this season.
Beckett had his second straight strong outing, holding Toronto to one run over seven innings, and Jed Lowrie provided a spark at the top of Boston's lineup with a two-run homer to lift the struggling Red Sox to a 4-1 victory over the Blue Jays on Saturday.
The 30-year old right-hander, coming off an injury-plagued 2010 season when he went just 6-6 with a 5.78 ERA, overpowered the New York Yankees six days ago and followed it up with a nearly equally impressive outing.
Pitching in chilly conditions, with wind chills in the mid-30s and a stiff breeze blowing in from right field, Beckett allowed two baserunners in an inning only once. It came when the Blue Jays scored their only run against him.
"I definitely pushed myself a little bit more. I definitely felt good today," he said. "That was one of the things where on a day game like today, where maybe the energy is down a little bit. That's a way of picking myself up."
Beckett, a big part of Boston's run to the 2007 World Series, missed over two months last season while sidelined with a strained back.
"He definitely should feel good about himself the first three outings," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, who has caught Beckett the past two starts. "At least he's had his health to build on that since spring training."
Beckett, reserved like usual after a good outing, feels as if he's overcame last season's troubles for now.
"I think execution-wise and health-wise and everything, I definitely think my last two starts were a notch above what I was most of the year last year," he said.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Red Sox, who have the major's worst record at 3-10.
Travis Snider had an RBI single and stole a pair of bases for the Blue Jays. Toronto lost for the sixth time in nine games.
Lowrie, inserted into the leadoff spot to replace struggling outfielder Carl Crawford, went 3 for 5 to raise his average to .500. He had seen limited playing time, getting 17 at-bats before the start.
"The hits are there right now," Lowrie said. "That nice. But it all comes down to preparation. I'm really happy with my preparation."
Beckett (2-1), coming off a dominant outing in which he shut out the Yankees with 10 strikeouts over eight innings in a win last Sunday, looked sharp from the start. He used a nasty curveball to go with his fastball to hold the Blue Jays to a pair of singles and a double. He struck out nine and walked two.
Daniel Bard gave up a hit in the eighth and Jonathan Papelbon got the final three outs for his second save.
"The way Beckett was throwing the baseball, a couple of runs, obviously would have stood up," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "We had a couple of opportunities late, but it was not a day where we could generate a whole lot of offense."
The Red Sox scored a pair of runs in the first, but it could have been more after they loaded the bases before Jo-Jo Reyes (0-2) got an out. Lowrie opened with a single, Dustin Pedroia walked and Adrian Gonzalez followed with an RBI single. Kevin Youkilis then doubled in a run, making it 2-0. After David Ortiz walked to load the bases, Reyes struck out a pair and got Darnell McDonald to ground out.
Reyes gave up four runs, seven hits, walked five and fanned three while throwing 94 pitches in four innings. He felt the key was that the right-handed hitters were able to solidly hit pitches away after he couldn't work them inside.
"I couldn't throw down and in on a righty, everything was away, so I think they keyed on it," he said.
The Blue Jays cut it to 2-1 on Snider's RBI single in the second.
Boston made it 4-1 in the second when Lowrie homered into the Green Monster seats after Jacoby Ellsbury was hit by a pitch.
NOTES: The 2-10 start had matched Boston's worst in club history, last done in 1996. They also opened 1925 and '27 by losing 10 of the initial 12. Crawford, off to a .137 start after signing a seven-year, $142-millon contract during the offseason, was taken out of the lineup for the day. "I think it'll do him a lot better to get a day off," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. McDonald started in left and had a single in three at-bats. ... Boston 1B Gonzalez made three diving stops on hard grounders by Corey Patterson. ... Twenty-two years ago Saturday, Kelly Gruber became the first Blue Jays' player to hit for the cycle. ... Fans lined the field on the warning track before the game as Red Sox players walked around and posed for pictures for about 45 minutes. ... Blue Jays' SS Yunel Escobar had reached safely in 11 straight games, but went 0 for 4. ... Toronto LHP Luis Perez made his major league debut.