There figures to be no amount of pressure the Rays can exert on Josh Beckett tonight to jangle his nerves. This is, after all, the man who as a 23-year-old pitched a complete-game shutout at Yankee Stadium to seal the 2003 World Series for the Marlins.
It's the same man who went 4-0 with a 1.20 ERA in 30 postseason innings last season as he won his first title with the Red Sox.
"I don't think that the idea of playing in these games of this magnitude are too big for him. I mean, I think he thrives on that and he enjoys it," manager Terry Francona said.
So the only lingering question concerning Boston's Game 2 starter was the right oblique injury that pushed back his first start in the division series against Anaheim to Game 3. And that question, Francona said, no longer applies.
"He's fine physically," Francona said of Beckett, who went 12-10 in the regular season. "The further he's removed from his problems of last week, he can concentrate on his routine and concentrate on pitching instead of trying to get better."
Beckett allowed four earned runs on nine hits and four walks in five innings against the Angels to take Boston's lone ALDS loss. He got no decision in a 2-1 Boston loss on Sept. 18 at Tropicana Field despite allowing just a run on three hits in eight innings.
Beckett said he's ready.
"I'm going to be the best I can be," he said.
WHAT IF:Jason Bay and Jed Lowrie were torrid in the ALDS, crafting the decisive inning in Game 4 and producing the Red Sox's first run in the fifth inning. Bay, whom the Rays pursued at the trade deadline, walked, moved to third on a check-swing single by Mark Kotsay and scored on a Lowrie sacrifice fly. Bay entered the ALCS batting .412, Lowrie .364.
SHIFT WORKS: The Red Sox rightfield shift against 1B Carlos Pena preserved Daisuke Matsuzaka's no-hitter in the sixth inning when Dustin Pedroia snared a wicked hopper on the outfield grass and threw in time to first base.