Josh Beckett's rehab assignment.
Beckett was making his first start since reports of an ill-timed golf outing leaked to the Boston media. Had the Red Sox made the playoffs last, no one probably would have cared. Had the Red Sox been in first place or close to, it would have barely registered on the outrage scale. But because of the historic collapse last season, in which Beckett played an infamous part, and because Boston entered tonight's game in last place, the story made a fanbase already ouchy even angrier. And after Beckett walked off the mound in the third inning, he did so to a standing boo.
The Indians picked up where they left off on the road, scoring seven runs in the game's first three innings. The Indians for whatever reason are scoring almost the double the runs per game on the road that they've scored at home, and that's led to a league-best road record of 9-3 going to into the game tonight. It was the bottom of the order that did a lot of the damage, starting with Casey Kotchman's sacrifice fly in the second. The number 9 hitter, Jack Hannahan, then hit a two-out, two-run homer to the bullpen beyond the right field fence to give the Indians a 3-0 lead. As Hannahan jogged around the bases, the first murmurs of boos began, and they'd grew louder over the next inning. The Sawx got a run back thanks to Mike Aviles' single in the bottom of the second, but the Indians responded in the third with four more runs off Beckett, with Michael Brantley's two-run double capping the inning and ending Beckett's night.
Former Boston pitcher Derek Lowe was the beneficiary of the early offensive outburst, and while he was certainly not sharp, he either extricated himself entirely from the numerous jams he faced in his six innings or minimized the damage from them. Jack Hannahan was busy tonight on the defensive end as well, at one point retiring or assisting on four consecutive Boston outs.
After Lowe left, Manny Acta tried to get through the seventh inning with Tony Sipp on the mound. Two out of the three scheduled hitters were left-handed, and although he did retire two left-handers he faced, he gave up a solo home run to Dustin Pedroia, necessitating Joe Smith's entrance into the game. The Tribe relievers, while effective this far, are showing some rather extreme left-right splits, with Sipp's being the most lopsided. Even before Pedroia's homer, right-handed hitters were batting .429/.500/.714, which is making him essentially a LOOGY. Vinnie Pestano is having the opposite problem; he's been great while facing right-handed hitters, gut has had trouble against left-handers (.304/.360/.522). Tonight though, his problem was control against any hitter; he had to throw over 40 pitches, and barely managed to get out of the eighth unscathed. When a manager has to use multiple relievers to get out of an inning, it's easy to see why he's always short-handed out there. Instead of the Indians using a couple front-end relievers to get through the last three innings, the Indians needed to use three of their four back-end guys, and that will have an effect the remainder of the series.
But the relief concerns shouldn't overshadow the Tribe victory, which bumped their road record to 10-3. Thanks to Beckett's short outing, the Red Sox had to use five pitchers to finish up the game, and that will have effects throughout the weekend.