Updated: June 21, 2009, 2:22 PM ET

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Howard Smith/US Presswire

Josh Beckett is back to being his dominant self for the Red Sox.

Beckett not waiting for good 'O'

Boston had lost two straight games and scored only three runs in the process. So Josh Beckett did what the ace of a staff is supposed to do: He stepped up and made sure his lineup didn't need to do much to get back into the win column.

Beckett threw a complete-game shutout against the Atlanta Braves on Saturday, striking out seven and allowing only five hits while throwing only 94 pitches. Beckett improved to 4-1 with a 1.44 ERA and 42 strikeouts in his past six starts and is now 8-3 on the season.

Surprisingly, this was Beckett's first shutout in a Boston uniform in his 104th start for the team, and only the third of his career. However, it couldn't have come at a better time. Daisuke Matsuzaka's next turn will be skipped because of his overall ineffectiveness (opponents are hitting .378 against him), and the bullpen has been worked to death, with 35 relief appearances in the team's previous 11 games through Friday.

Tim Wakefield is winning but isn't overpowering. Jon Lester barely managed to get through a rain-shortened game Thursday, throwing 114 pitches in five innings. 100-year-old John Smoltz is set to make his Red Sox debut next week against the Washington Nationals. With the Yankees, Blue Jays and Rays all within striking distance of the American League East lead, it wouldn't take much to send this staff into a tailspin.

Enter Beckett. If he were to go away and leave the Red Sox for any length of time, what would they do? No worries, Red Sox Nation, he's still here, answering that bell. Happy days.

Highlights
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Beckett Fans Seven In Five-Hit Shutout
Boston blanked Atlanta, 3-0, as Josh Beckett improved to 8-3Tags: MLB, boston red sox, atlanta braves, josh beckett, jason varitek
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News, Notes and Box Score Bits

• The much-ballyhooed Battle of the Bros took place in Los Angeles on Saturday night, and the outcome was a tad surprising. With their parents in attendance, Jeff Weaver stepped up his game mightily to best young Jered Weaver. The elder Weaver improved to 4-1 on the season, holding the Angels to two earned runs in five innings. Meanwhile, the Dodgers pounced on Jered Weaver early and often, scoring six runs on 10 hits off Jeff's baby brother. Russell Martin finally hit his first home run of the season.

Derrek Lee is hot, hot, hot! Lee went 2-for-5 with a two-run home run Saturday to extend his hitting streak to 17 games. Lee is batting .375 in June with six home runs and 16 RBIs and has helped lead the Cubs climb back over the .500 mark and into the NL Central race.

Ryan Howard is also hot, hot, hot! However, in his case, it's the result of the flu. Howard, who had started 342 straight games for the Phillies, the longest active appearances streak in the majors, was not in the lineup on Saturday after his fever reached a high of 104 degrees Friday night. That still didn't stop him from playing at all. Howard came on in the seventh inning as a pinch hitter and promptly hit a three-run home run. Although the Phillies eventually lost the game 6-5 to the Orioles, Howard's quest to overtake Cal Ripken Jr. lives on for another day.

• Let's hear it for the little guys. Ian Stewart went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs for Colorado, and Adam Kennedy went 4-for-5 with a home run and two RBIs for Oakland on Saturday, leading both their teams to victories. Stewart has 13 home runs on the season yet is owned in only 31 percent of ESPN.com standard leagues, while Kennedy and his .312 batting average are owned in only 18 percent. What will it take, gang?

Willie Harris is hitting only .228 this season, but that didn't stop him from being the hero for Washington on Saturday. Harris hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th inning off Scott Richmond -- who was scheduled to start Tuesday -- to beat Toronto 5-3. It was the third extra-inning game for the Blue Jays this week, and with closer Scott Downs on the disabled list, their bullpen is getting pretty tired. They have Monday off, but don't be surprised to see Ricky Romero playing the sacrificial lamb and getting hung out to dry if he struggles early in Sunday's game.

• "Derek pitched his tail off," Rangers manager Ron Washington said on the team's official Web site. "That's what we've got to look forward to. He was excellent." He's talking about Derek Holland, who dueled San Francisco Giants' starter Matt Cain for seven innings before leaving the game in the hands of the bullpen tied at 1. However, neither offense could manage to score until the 11th inning, when a wild pitch by Jason Jennings plated Nate Schierholtz with the winning run.

• Maybe he should take April off from now on? Joe Mauer is hitting .417 for the season and in less than 175 at-bats already has reached a career high in home runs, hitting his 14th of the season Saturday night against the Astros. And with Mauer getting on base so frequently, nobody is more pleased than Justin Morneau, on pace for a career high in RBIs with 133, even after Saturday night's 0-for-4.

• The biggest story Saturday night in Florida was the pitching matchup between Josh Johnson and A.J. Burnett, who each allowed only one earned run on the night. Burnett struck out eight Marlins but lost his fourth game of the season when Hanley Ramirez scored on a Johnny Damon error. Meanwhile, Johnson improved to a 7-1 record and 2.66 ERA on the season with the victory.

• In that game, Alex Rodriguez walked in a pinch-hit at-bat in the eighth inning, which is the only thing that should matter to fantasy baseball owners. As for fantasy paparazzi leagues, the story will be how A-Rod, benched for two games because of "fatigue" that has sent him into a slump of epic proportions, was seen out on the town at 2:30 a.m. with actress Kate Hudson.


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Player Spotlight
Hitter of the night
Alexei Ramirez, White Sox
Maybe it was the bright blue uniforms worn by the team in honor of the Gillette Civil Rights Game, but Ramirez brought sexy back Saturday. The White Sox's shortstop went 4-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs in Chicago's 10-8 win over the Reds. Ramirez is hitting .327 in his past 13 games.
Pitcher of the night
James Shields, Rays
The Mets couldn't do anything to stop Shields on Saturday, and if not for rain, nothing would have. A lengthy delay forced Shields to the showers after retiring 14 straight New York hitters from the third through seventh innings. Shields outdueled Johan Santana to earn the win as Tampa Bay won 3-1.
Stat of the night: 7
Philadelphia has lost seven games this season after leading in the eighth inning or later. No team in the major leagues has had worse late-inning futility this season. Think the team might miss closer Brad Lidge? Last year, the Phillies lost only 10 such games the entire season!
Notable Transactions

• Cincinnati shortstop Alex Gonzalez was placed on the 15-day disabled list with bone chips in his elbow. He is expected to miss three to four weeks. The team recalled second baseman Danny Richar from Triple-A Louisville, and he was immediately pressed into action when Brandon Phillips injured his right thumb during Saturday's game. No word yet on how serious that injury might be.

Manny Corpas of the Rockies was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sore right elbow, and Juan Rincon was recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs. An MRI revealed a bone chip in the elbow, but Corpas hopes to postpone surgery until after the season. Colorado has won 15 of its past 16 games but is now without its chief set-up man. Matt Daley and Joel Peralta are just two candidates to take over that role, but there's no clear choice.

• One day after a brutal collision had Endy Chavez leaving the field on a stretcher, the Seattle outfielder is done for the season after being placed on the 60-day disabled list. In fact, team doctor Edward Khalfayan told The Seattle Times that Chavez's knee is so bad, he's not even sure he'll be able to start 2010 on time. It's not the way Wladimir Balentien wanted to get the extra playing time, but it looks as though he will get the nod in left field, at least for now.

Frank Francisco is back for the Rangers. The team activated him from the 15-day disabled list in time for Saturday's game against the Giants and optioned Guillermo Moscoso down to Triple-A Oklahoma City. Francisco worked the eighth inning and struck out two batters without allowing a hit and should be back in the closer capacity quickly.

• The Detroit Tigers officially recalled Alfredo Figaro from Double-A Erie to start Saturday's game against the Brewers, and the results were pretty good for the youngster in his debut. Figaro certainly struggled a bit but retired seven of the eight batters he faced with runners in scoring position -- four on strikeouts -- en route to earning his first major league victory.

• Could Adam LaRoche be headed elsewhere? That's the buzz in Pittsburgh after first baseman/outfielder Steve Pearce was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis on Saturday. That's not the case according to manager John Russell, who told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "Everybody's speculating about Adam and that Pearce might replace him. We're not going to look at that. Adam's here." Still, the newspaper reports that the clubhouse was not happy that veteran Craig Monroe was designated for assignment to make room for Pearce. The Pirates have 10 days to work out a trade or release Monroe. He might have some fantasy value depending on where he latches on, as he can offer some power.

They Said It
Mike (Indy): This new chat format has more "kinks" in it than Erik Bedard's shoulder. Thoughts on his injury?

Stephania Bell: Mike: Funny -- but I might not agree. You know I think Bedard is a big-time injury risk b/c of his multiple soft tissue injuries in his past. The fact that this is his shoulder -- which he had surgery on in the offseason -- makes me more worried. Even though they're calling it slight inflammation, and maybe it is and they're just being proactive, I don't like it.
-- Full chat transcript


Sam (Seattle): What about Felix Hernandez? Is he breaking out this year or should I be shopping him? Thanks.

Pierre Becquey: I think he's the real deal. He finally got through a May unscathed (relatively), which had been his problem in past years. I think the stats are totally legit.
-- Full chat transcript
Monday's fantasy chat schedule:
Christopher Harris, 11 a.m. ET
Matthew Berry, 3 p.m. ET
On The Farm

Joey Votto went 2-for-4 with a home run in a minor league rehab start for Class-A Dayton on Saturday, but that wasn't what made the Reds' first baseman feel better. It was the fact that he played the full nine innings. Sunday will be a tougher test for Votto, who's on the disabled list for "stress-related reasons," as it is Father's Day, and Votto's father passed away last summer.

• With the Phillies in need of a bullpen boost, the team got some good news out of Double-A Reading, as closer Brad Lidge threw a scoreless inning in his first rehab appearance. As the starter in the game, Lidge threw 15 pitches, 11 for strikes, and was consistently clocked at faster than 90 mph. "The big thing for me is to get out there and push off my back leg and make sure it feels good, and I did that today," Lidge told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Xavier Nady is one step closer to returning to Yankee Stadium after going 0-for-4 in an extended spring training game Saturday. It's not his hitting that has been a concern; rather, it has been Nady's inability to make throws from the outfield after right elbow surgery in April. Nady played in the outfield in the game and made several throws without pain. He may be assigned to a minor league team to begin his final rehab Monday.

Looking Ahead

Yovani Gallardo has the misfortune of going up against Justin Verlander, otherwise he might be ranked in our top three for the day. But he already has lost to Edinson Volquez and Wandy Rodriguez this season and seems unable to win when facing a fellow stud.

• During the past three seasons, Baltimore's Luke Scott has been a .236 hitter against lefties and .281 against righties. Cole Hamels, a left-hander, is on the mound. You do the math!

John Lackey may be 5-1 in his career against the Dodgers, but he's given up nearly nine hits a game this season, and even though he struck out 10 Giants in his most recent start, he still allowed 11 baserunners.