Tigers held in check by Sox's Beckett
Detroit doesn't notch first hit until seventh inning in loss
DETROIT -- One night after manager Jim Leyland lamented his offense for not taking advantage of chances Daisuke Matsuzaka gave the Tigers, Josh Beckett never gave them one until it was too late.
While Randy Johnson remains the last pitcher to no-hit the Tigers back in 1990, and Nolan Ryan the last to do it in Detroit in 1973, Beckett's performance deserves better mention than the numbers. The 10-5 Red Sox win Wednesday night at Comerica Park reflected little of the zeros that Beckett put up for 6 2/3 innings.
"One of the best pitchers in baseball," Leyland said, "had a very good game."
Not only did Beckett (6-2) not allow a base hit until Curtis Granderson's line-drive single through the right side with two outs in the seventh, the only Tigers batter to come close to a hit in the first six innings was catcher Gerald Laird, who attempted to bunt leading off the sixth, but the ball just rolled foul.
Laird eventually struck out looking. Beckett hit him with a pitch when he came to bat again in the eighth.
Beckett sent down 18 Tigers in order between his walks of Placido Polanco in the first inning and Magglio Ordonez in the seventh. Six Tigers struck out in that span, five of them on called third strikes.
Beckett's fastball had its usual consistent velocity and nasty late movement, leaving Tigers hitters struggling to catch up. Pitches they expected to take for balls off the corner ended up hitting for strikes.
"He was really good, spotting well," third baseman Brandon Inge said. "He was spotting away better than I have seen him."
Inge took called third strikes in each of his first two at-bats -- a fastball on the outside corner in the second inning, then a curveball inside in the fifth. Miguel Cabrera swung and missed at the curveball off the corner to end the fourth after getting nothing but fastballs in his first at-bat in the opening inning.
"When he's painting corners," Leyland said, "it's really tough."
Granderson saw Beckett work him almost exclusively outside for five pitches before spotting a fastball on the inside corner for the strikeout to lead off the fifth.
"Throughout the game, everything was on all the corners," Granderson said.
The first pitch Granderson saw over the plate, he said, was the pitch that broke up the no-no. And even that wasn't easy, not with the entire Tigers dugout aware of the zero in their hit column.
"Everyone's talking about it," Granderson said.
After Ordonez's walk, Cabrera nearly tagged his former Florida teammate for a hit with his drive to deep right-center field, but speedy Jacoby Ellsbury ran it down for the second out of the inning. Granderson followed by working into a 2-1 count, then catching one of Beckett's fastballs as it broke back towards the middle of the plate.
"It was a sinker down the middle," Beckett said. "He hit it good. It wasn't a very good pitch."
Granderson's line drive went through the right side for a single, ending the no-hit drama. After a brief mound visit from catcher Jason Varitek, however, Beckett followed by sending down Jeff Larish swinging at a curveball, stranding both runners on base.
Not until Inge's leadoff double in the eighth and three Red Sox errors did the Tigers (28-23) break up the shutout. By then, Boston was already in double digits. In the end, it wasn't so much the four runs -- three earned -- over Armando Galarraga's seven innings, but the add-on tallies against Zach Miner and Nate Robertson in the eighth, including a two-run double from David Ortiz.
Though Galarraga (3-6) salvaged his second straight quality start after J.D. Drew's two-run homer in the opening inning, Beckett's performance and the insurance tallies sent Galarraga to his sixth loss in as many decisions since going 3-0 in April.
"He did pretty darned good," Leyland said. "I thought he pitched well. After the first couple hitters, I was actually a little concerned the way he was throwing the ball, but he really picked it up. He gave us a chance, kept it close enough."
The five Tigers runs in the eighth, three on Granderson's bases-clearing triple, halved Detroit's deficit rather than putting them back into the game. But it gave the Tigers a glimmer of a chance once Takashi Saito -- filling in at closer with Jonathan Papelbon rested for a night -- loaded the bases with two walks and a hit-by-pitch.
Josh Anderson stepped to the plate with Cabrera on deck representing the potential tying run. But one night after Anderson battled Papelbon for 11 pitches and nine foul balls, Saito escaped with a flyout to center to end it.
"It's that never-say-die attitude," Granderson said.
That said, it's still a struggling offense. Take away the eighth-inning miscues, and the Red Sox (31-22) have allowed one earned run to the Tigers in 18 innings.
"I can tip my hat to Beckett," Leyland said. "But in saying that, up here you've got to compete your tail [off] and beat the good pitchers some, too. But he's one of the best in all of baseball. There's no question about that."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.