PHILADELPHIA -- Paging Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard.
Someone has to come up with an idea on how to keep the flu bug from attacking Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett.
"It seems like that [expletive] flu gets me every year," he said after losing, 5-0, to Cliff Lee and the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday night. "If it doesn't get me in the offseason, it gets me in spring training or gets me some other time. I'm going to have somebody give it to me in the offseason so I don't have to deal with this [expletive] anymore."
Beckett had not pitched since his one-hit, complete-game shutout of the Tampa Bay Rays on June 15 because of a flu virus that left him with muscle fatigue and bed-ridden for the better part of a week. His strength had not fully returned by Tuesday, manager Terry Francona said.
"As expected, he didn't feel strong throughout the game," Francona said. "It was hot and he was coming off being real sick.’’
Beckett was helped out early by two nice plays from shortstop Marco Scutaro, who snagged a line drive by Placido Polanco in the first inning and went deep into the hole to convert Shane Victorino’s grounder into a force play in the second. But two batters later, Domonic Brown drove a 2-and-2 fastball into the Phillies bullpen for a 2-0 lead that looked exponentially bigger with Lee on the mound.
“You can’t give that guy two runs in the first or second inning,’’ Beckett said. “That lets him go to his whole deal.’’
Beckett had only given up two home runs in a start once this season, on April 27 against the Orioles, and had allowed just one home run in his last nine starts combined. Victorino altered that equation when he connected on a full-count fastball to make it 5-0 in the sixth, after Brown’s double and a sacrifice fly by Lee brought home a run in the fifth.
“Victorino, we basically tried to pitch around him,’’ Beckett said, “and he jerked a ball back over the middle of the plate.’’
Beckett left after the sixth, with newly returned relievers Franklin Morales and Bobby Jenks each throwing a scoreless inning. The five runs allowed by Beckett were a season high, one more run than he’d allowed in six May starts combined and equal to the number of runs he’d allowed in three earlier starts in June.
Still intact is his streak of starts in which he has allowed five or fewer hits while pitching six or more innings. That streak is now at eight (he gave up five hits Tuesday night). Since 1920, only Roger Clemens has had a streak that long for the Sox.
Beckett's earned run average, which had been a league-best 1.86 entering the game, now stands at 2.20.