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Drake Britton, Pedro Beato show poise in tight spot for Red Sox

07.22.13 at 4:19 am ET
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Drake Britton and Pedro Beato do not have a lot of experience, but they had to remain cool under pressure in Sunday night’€™s extra innings affair between the Red Sox and Yankees.

Britton took the 10th and Beato took the 11th, and there was not much behind either of them. The only other reliever on the staff that could have pitched was Jose De La Torre. However, each of the youngsters held the Yankees scoreless for an inning, giving Mike Napoli a chance to hit his walk off home run in the bottom of the 11th.

For Britton, the path was not an easy one. The 24-year-old lefty issued a six-pitch walk to the first batter he faced ‘€” speedster Brett Gardner. With him on the basepaths, Britton had to worry about a base stealer on first on top of facing the 2-3-4 hitters in the Yankees lineup with nobody out. Britton forced Ichiro Suzuki to fly out, but then allowed a base hit to Robinson Cano, leaving a runner in scoring position with cleanup hitter Lyle Overbay at the plate.

The pressure was high for Britton, who was not only in his second career game, but also pitching against a heated division rival on national television while trying to help Boston hold its slim lead in the American League East. However, Britton had a brief meeting with catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and went back to the mound, where he induced an inning-ending double play with a 93-mph fastball.

‘€œIt was huge,’€ Saltalamacchia said, ‘€œespecially coming with a situation like that. It was only the second time out there against a good club and against a rival in Boston.’€

The moment was all the more momentous because it bordered on unfathomable as recently as two years ago. In 2011, pitching for High-A Salem, games unraveled quickly with Britton on the mound in a year when he went 1-13 with a 6.91 ERA. A walk and single at the start of the inning usually transformed quickly to a sizable crooked number, in a year when opponents hit .328/.414/.539 against Britton with runners on base.

But on Sunday, Britton — pitching on the second consecutive day for the first time in his life — showed poise in the face of adversity.

“I think [the ability to control the game] is a lot different [than in 2011],” said Britton. “I feel very comfortable. I feel really good with the things that I’ve done to get myself here, and just being able to relax, not overthink it and do what God blessed me to do, and that’s throw a baseball.”

When the Red Sox offense failed to touch anything Shawn Kelley was throwing in the bottom of the 10th though, Red Sox manager John Farrell turned the ball over to Beato, who he felt more comfortable with due to the upcoming right-handed hitting in the Yankees lineup.

Beato had no trouble disposing of the first two hitters, only using four pitches to record two outs. After Eduardo Nunez singled to left field, Saltalamacchia helped bail Beato out by catching Nunez as he tried to steal second.

Beato has yet to allow an earned run in his five appearances this season for the Red Sox, and has made quick work of opposing batters in each of the games he has pitched ‘€” never throwing more than 15 pitches in an outing. That type of performance drew praise from Farrell after Sunday’€™s game.

‘€œPedro has shown much improved arm strength from spring training,’€ Farrell said. ‘€œHe had a little shoulder issue, a little fatigue, not fully in shape and then he has pitched well the three different times he has been with us. He is a strike thrower and his arm strength and power on his fastball continue to climb.’€

With the season-ending injuries to Andrew Miller and Andrew Bailey, young pitchers like Britton and Beato are likely to have opportunities to make an impact at the major league level as Boston eyes a playoff spot barring any trades. With more performances like Sunday night, Britton or Beato could be options to stay with the Red Sox.

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