Beckett (strained oblique) pushed back to Game 3 of ALDS; Lester gets opener

BOSTON -- Josh Beckett's first start in the AL first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Angels was pushed back to Game 3 after the Boston Red Sox ace injured his side throwing a bullpen session.

Jon Lester will pitch the opener for the Boston Red Sox at the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday night, followed by Daisuke Matsuzaka on Friday night, manager Terry Francona said.

Beckett, a postseason star, is slated to start Sunday's game at Fenway Park. A fourth game, if necessary, would be played in Boston next Monday.

"He has to be able to go out there and execute his pitches," Francona said, "but I think he's going to be OK."

Francona said after Sunday night's regular-season finale that Beckett strained the oblique muscle in his side on the 40th pitch of his normal side session Friday in the rain before the opener of a three-game series with the New York Yankees.

"I don't think it's frustrating," Francona said. "Things happen and you deal with them and if you deal with them well enough, you handle it. If you don't, you go home."

In 2007 when the Red Sox won their second World Series in four years, Beckett was 4-0 in the postseason after going 20-7 with a 3.27 ERA during the regular season. In 10 postseason outings during his career, he is 6-2 with a 1.73 ERA.

He was 12-10 with a 4.03 ERA this season when he had two stints on the 15-day disabled list -- from March 19 to April 6 (back spasms) and Aug. 18 to Sept. 5 (right elbow inflammation).

"We've got other capable guys," left fielder Jason Bay said. "I wouldn't write him off just yet. Being pushed back isn't the end of the world. Hopefully, we'll get to Josh, and it isn't life and death."

On Aug. 29, Beckett was examined for his elbow problem by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola., Fla..

"I don't trust anybody more than I trust him when it comes to stuff like that. Just to go down there and hear it from him. It's something I needed to do, just to clear my mind," Beckett said then. "He said my ligament looked fine. That's what I was afraid of. ... It was a big relief."

He's struggled at times this season, including his last outing of the regular season last Monday. He allowed four runs and seven hits in six innings during a 4-3 loss to Cleveland, hitting three batters for the first time in his career.

Lester was 16-6 this season with a 3.21 ERA. He allowed one run on two hits in six innings in his last game, a 6-1 win over Cleveland on Thursday night.

Matsuzaka finished at 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA after losing for the first time in eight decisions in New York's 6-2 win in Sunday night's opener of a day-night doubleheader. He allowed three runs in four innings.