Boston, Massachusetts —In a stunning turn of events that left Red Sox fans scratching their heads, starting pitcher Josh Beckett, pitching to the Yankees in the 2010 season opener at Fenway Park, plunked eight consecutive batters in the third inning of the Red Sox’s crushing 19-2 loss.
Beckett got off a shaky start, giving up six hits and four runs in the top of the first, and throwing several wild pitches. He seemed to settle in the second inning, fanning two and giving up only one hit. Returning in the third inning, however, he gave up a double to Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, and then hit the next batter, Curtis Granderson, with a high inside fastball.
Then Beckett, who in 2009 carried a .386 ERA and plunked only seven batters over 212 innings, proceeded to hit the next seven consecutive batters, all with his first pitches of each at-bat. Eleven runs were eventually scored in the inning.
“I wanted to see what would happen,” Beckett told The Observer after the crushing home loss. “We were losing anyway, and we couldn’t seem to get any runs over. So, I started beaning batters. I wanted to see if anyone would charge the mound.”
“Nobody did, though,” he continued. “There were no warnings from the ump, and no bench clearing brawls, even after drilling eight straight batters in the head with fastballs. That’s really disappointing. I was really hoping there would be fights this year.”
Beckett wasn’t the only one off his game. In the fourth inning, Sox first-baseman Kevin Youkilis reached first base on a seeing-eye single to center. David Ortiz, batting behind him, hit a weak pop-up to the infield. Even after the ball was easily caught by Yankees second-baseman Robinson Cano, Youkilis continued to run toward second base. Cano fired to first, easily making the out to end the inning.
“I forgot how to run back to first base,” Youkilis explained after the game, about his poor base-running. “I don’t even think anyone told me how to stop running toward second, turn around, and run back to first. Someone really should have explained that to me before the game.”
A few other odd plays rounded out the perplexing game. Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia twice threw the ball to third base instead of first when fielding routine grounders. In the sixth inning, Sox outfielders J.D. Drew and Mike Cameron ran in small, awkward circles trying to catch a Nick Swisher pop-fly, both eventually missing the ball altogether as it landed between them. And, in the bottom of the eighth, with the bases loaded, Sox skipper Terry Francona made the baffling choice to call in relief pitcher Scott Schoeneweis to bat for slugger David Ortiz.
“That was just a straight-up mistake,” Francona admitted. “I was just looking through the list of my bench players and I accidentally pulled Ortiz out of the game and had Scott bat for him. Just a stupid error. I haven’t figured out how this all works yet.”
“Of course,” we were down 17 runs at that point, so it didn’t really matter. We just need some practice. We’re all learning how to play the game. I’m sure we’ll get ’em next time.”