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Closing Time: Josh Beckett blasted as Tigers shut out Red Sox

04.07.12 at 7:00 pm ET
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Josh Beckett had one of the worst outings of his career. (AP)

DETROIT — Josh Beckett’s first outing of 2012 came with all sorts of red flags, as the Red Sox’ No. 2 starter endured one of the worst games of his career in getting hammered for seven runs in just 4 2/3 innings in his team’s 10-0 loss to the Tigers.

The Tigers pounded the Sox starter for seven hits and five homers, with both Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera going deep twice off of Beckett. The five home runs matched a career-high yield for Beckett, a plateau reached most previously on Aug. 23, 2009.

Even more puzzling than the line was Beckett’s stuff. His velocity was pedestrian, running mostly 90-92 mph, well shy of the 94 mph he averaged on his fastball in 2011. He looked like a finesse pitcher at times, since his velocity provided him with no real margin for error; perhaps that explained a cutter-heavy repertoire that was ultimately ineffective.

While it might have been easy to dismiss such a performance as a rocky first start, given that Beckett went to see two specialists earlier in the week about discomfort that he’s been experiencing in his thumb (a condition that Beckett said he has been dealing with for 18 months), the performance raised obvious red flags about whether the right-hander will require a stint on the disabled list.

That being the case, it is worth noting that the Red Sox moved Aaron Cook at the end of spring training to be pitching on the same day as Beckett.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– Beckett, Beckett and more Beckett. Prior to Saturday’s game, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said that his starter faced no restrictions as he prepared to take the mound. He described the right-hander as central to what the team is trying to accomplish.

“Josh Beckett’s one of the guys that we’re building this team around so we’re very excited about him getting out there today,” said Valentine. “I’m very excited about seeing him pitch, yeah.”

This was not a Beckett around whom the Sox can build.

Dating to last season, the right-hander has now allowed at least six earned runs in each of his last three starts, tying the longest such stretch of his career. Last year, Beckett went 28 starts without allowing six or more earned runs before doing so in his final two outings.

– The Red Sox offense has been virtually non-existent against the Tigers in the first two games of the year. The team has scored runs in just one of 18 innings, a two-run rally in the ninth inning of Thursday’s opener. After collecting five hits in their first game of the season (a contest started by reigning Cy Young/MVP Justin Verlander), the Sox had seven on Saturday, and just one for extra bases (a Jarrod Saltalamacchia double). The absence of offense became more glaring given that Tigers starter Doug Fister had to leave in the middle of the fourth inning with an injury to his left side and the Sox were facing what should have been the soft underbelly of the Detroit bullpen.

Kevin Youkilis has looked bad at the plate in the first two games of the year. In two games, he is 0-for-8 with four strikeouts and a double play ball.

Mike Aviles is now 0-for-6 with three strikeouts through two games, and he also committed an error when he failed to handle a groundball cleanly.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

– Cook had what one talent evaluator labeled a “solid” debut for Triple-A Pawtucket, allowing just one unearned run in a seven-inning complete game, with his bread-and-butter sinker running mostly 88-89 mph and topping out at 91. His slider was a good pitch at 84-86 mph, and though he didn’t have his curveball, Cook was still able to carve up his Triple-A opponents.

Kelly Shoppach, who tied a Red Sox record by going 0-for-15 to start his Boston career back in 2005, entered Saturday’s game as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning and collected a single.

– Left-hander Justin Thomas made his Sox debut and collected a strikeout (against the right-handed Ryan Raburn, no less).

Adrian Gonzalez is now 3-for-7 to start the year after collecting a pair of singles in four at-bats on Saturday. That said, he also struck out twice, and now also has three punchouts on the young season.

Ryan Sweeney continued his nice start, going 2-for-3 with a walk. He’s 4-for-7 in his first two games with the Sox and has reached in five of eight at-bats.

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