In the Playoff Pulse series, our MLB editor takes on a hot October topic.
Josh Beckett has authored many great starts in the postseason. He's been a part of two separate 3-1 playoff comebacks. He slayed the Yankees in the World Series in 2003. But what he accomplished in Game 6 Saturday might just be his finest October moment of all.
It's a strange thing to say considering what he did just a year ago against the Indians, considering he only threw 78 pitches, made the Rays swing and miss just five times and lasted a mere five innings, but, of course, context is everything.
Beckett hasn't been himself this month. The strained oblique he suffered on the final weekend of the regular season has clearly been affecting him in his three postseason starts, dropping his fastball velocity from the mid to low-90s and damaging his normally tremendous command and control.
Sometime between Game 2, when he was bombed by the Rays, and Game 6, he figured out a way to be successful. In an odd way, it was the only path that Beckett could take to add to his postseason legacy.
He is the quintessential ace -- a hard-throwing Texan, who seemingly always wears a scowl and always has a curse word at the ready. Oh, and he simply blows hitters away.
But that's not the Beckett we've seen this October. His stuff isn't good enough to waste opposing hitters right now. Managing to win with guts and guile is right up there with what Curt Schilling did in 2004 and 2007 and what Pedro Martinez did in Game 5 of the 1999 ALDS against the Indians.
If Thursday night was about the Red Sox proving that they can never be counted out at Fenway Park with their offense, then Saturday was about redemption for Beckett and Jason Varitek -- heroes of Boston's recent playoff successes that had done little to help them so far in this postseason. It wasn't as dramatic as the Game 5 rally, but it had to be just as satisfying.
And what about the Rays? Things would appear to line up favorably on paper in Game 7. Matt Garza got the better of Jon Lester last time around. He has electric stuff and Lester looked out of gas last time around. Lester isn't the only Red Sox pitcher who is running on fumes either. Closer Jonathan Papelbon, Boston's great equalizer in this series, was also throwing notably softer in Game 6.
But at this point, I think we can all agree that the paper has been thrown out the window and has been fluttering in the wind like one of the many popups Tampa Bay hit in Game 6 for a few days now. If any team can bounce back from this, it is the Rays. We'll find out if they can tonight.
Yesterday's Hero: Beckett. Read above. Honorable mention to Jason Varitek, Kevin Youkilis, Hideki Okajima and B.J. Upton.
Yesterday's Goat: James Shields. He's a great pitcher and an even better guy, but simple rhyming doth not a nickname make.