ST. PETERSBURG — This was not the Josh Beckett who was 6-2 with a 2.09 ERA in 11 postseason games entering Saturday night's Game 2 of the AL Championship Series.
He might have been the same gruff Texan who went into Yankee Stadium at age 23 and pitched a shutout in Game 6 of the World Series to seal a championship for the Marlins.
But in physical form, no. Whether it was the strained right oblique muscle that threw off his playoff schedule or the effects of an elbow malady that cost him starts this summer, Beckett was not the postseason hammer that helped the Red Sox win the 2007 title.
He lost three leads, the final one a 6-5 margin in the fifth when it appeared manager Terry Francona let him labor through the heart of the Rays order for a decision. Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria had run-scoring hits to give the Rays a 7-6 lead that grew to 8-6.
Beckett had held opponents to a .159 batting average — an all-time best entering this postseason — but allowed eight earned runs on nine hits (tying another high) in 41/3 innings. Beckett allowed just seven earned runs in the entire 2007 postseason in going 4-0. He had never allowed three homers in a postseason game.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Francona expected Mark Kotsay to be a spare part when the Red Sox acquired him in late August, but a spate of injuries made him a valuable and versatile component. Kotsay started at first base for the second straight game Saturday, with Kevin Youkilis moving to third to replace the injured Mike Lowell.
"I got so many messages when we acquired Kots from people that I know in the game that I respect that said we were getting a guy that was off the charts, and I agree with that," Francona said of Kotsay, who entered Saturday hitting .286 in the postseason. "He's a gamer."
BIG GAMER: Youkilis snapped an 0-for-17 streak against Rays RHP James Shields on Friday with two hits. It was his longest hitless streak against any pitcher.