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Closing Time: Red Sox, Josh Beckett dominate Mariners

05.15.12 at 7:04 pm ET
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No Red Sox player has been subject to more scrutiny than Josh Beckett. Whether because of the glare or in spite of it, the right-hander delivered his most dominating start of the year and arguably the most overpowering of any Sox pitcher this year.

Beckett tossed seven shutout innings in which he allowed just four hits (all singles), walked two and struck out nine, overmatching the Mariners in a 5-0 Red Sox victory that concluded a two-game series sweep at Fenway. The strikeout total was the highest by a Sox starter this year. That total reflected an impressive arsenal of swing-and-miss offerings — a 91-94 mph fastball, a terrific changeup to keep the left-handed-heavy Mariners lineup honest, a curveball and a cutter.

While Beckett’s 4.97 ERA suggests struggles this year, the reality is that he has five quality starts and two complete clunkers. But for the most part, he’s given the Sox the type of performances that they need in order to contend, with no effort more emphatic than Tuesday’s.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

– Beckett continued a dominant turn of the rotation by Red Sox starters. Over the team’s five-game winning streak, the starters went 5-0 with a 1.57 ERA. Each went at least six innings, with Beckett going seven frames and Jon Lester turning in a complete game.

David Ortiz found both conventional and unconventional ways to beat the shift. The designated hitter demolished a 93 mph fastball from Blake Beaven, sending it into the Red Sox bullpen in the bottom of the third inning for his eighth homer, giving the Sox a 1-0 lead. Then, leading off the bottom of the fifth, Ortiz dropped a textbook bunt down the third base line for a single.

The two-hit day was Ortiz’s first in eight games. In the previous seven contests, he was 4-for-28 with two walks. After going 2-for-3 with a homer and a walk, Ortiz is hitting .353 with a 1.050 OPS this season.

Rich Hill delivered a 1-2-3 eighth inning, retiring all three left-handed hitters he faced. On the year, lefties are now 1-for-14 (.071) against him.

Mike Aviles had a pair of doubles, going 2-for-4 while driving in two runs. Moreover, he continued to play spectacular defense.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

Daniel Nava verged on mortal, going “just” 1-for-3 while striking out. He reached base twice, as he was also hit by a pitch. In the process, Nava saw his OBP fall from .750 to .708.

Adrian Gonzalez went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.

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