An infield single in the third inning was the only thing separating Josh Beckett from perfection Wednesday night, carrying the Red Sox to a 3-0 win over the Rays.
Since Beckett's minor derailment in the first inning against the Yankees last week, he's been on a roll. But while shutting down the Yankees for six innings was impressive enough, that feat had nothing on what he did to the Rays. It took him only 97 innings to go all nine frames, showing beautiful command of his fastball and getting swings-and-misses when he occasionally went to the changeup. By the end of the game, he'd seen just one man over the minimum, striking out six along the way.
For much of the game, Jeremy Hellickson was seeing similar results, if not displaying quite as much domination. In the seventh, though, things seemed to fall apart, if only for a few pitches. Jacoby Ellsbury's line drive out were a warning sign for the danger to come. Dustin Pedroia reached third base when Matt Joyce could not make a leaping play at the wall in right. Hellickson elected to walk Adrian Gonzalez to set up the double play, bringing Kevin Youkilis to the plate.
Hellickson had to be looking for a ground ball, but the 0-1 pitch was not the type to produce one. The pitch was over the inside part of the plate, and just about letter-high. In other words, perfect. Youkilis cleaned it out, sending it over the wall in right field to put up the only three runs of the game.
With the win, the Red Sox break their 0-for against the Rays this season, and have a chance to win their fourth straight series Thursday as David Price takes on Clay Buchholz.