Beckett set to face locked-in Rox

Beckett set to face locked-in Rox

BOSTON -- All postseason long, Josh Beckett has looked like a pitcher who cannot be beaten. Here's one opponent that actually beat him up.

Though Beckett picked up seven losses to go with his 20 wins in the regular season, he gave up more than five runs allowed in one game all year. That came courtesy of the Rockies, who used a Garrett Atkins grand slam and Matt Holliday solo homer to knock him out after five innings en route to a 7-1 loss back.

Beckett was literally unbeatable up to that point, a perfect 9-0 heading into that June 14 outing here at Fenway Park, and he didn't exactly flounder from there on out. Now it's the Rockies who look hard to beat after 21 wins in their last 22 games.

As Beckett prepares to try to cool them off in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night, he isn't making a big deal of reflecting on that June outing. And he isn't expecting to gleam any special knowledge from having faced them then.

"They've always had a good lineup," Beckett said. "I think now they've got some pitchers that know how to pitch, because they were just kind of mixing and matching when I was in the National League, but they've always been able to hit. There was never a question about any of their ability to spit out hitters, Todd Helton being a guy from quite a long time ago, but they've always been able to put a good team out there."

Until June, they had never been able to beat Beckett. He was 4-0 in five starts against them when he was a blossoming ace with the Florida Marlins, allowing just two home runs and 10 earned runs over 32 innings. Yet many of the Rockies have a history of hitting him.

Atkins is 6-for-10 in his career off Beckett. Holliday is 6-for-14. Helton is 4-for-12 with four walks, meaning he has reached base in half of his plate appearances. For that matter, no Rockies player with at least 10 plate appearances against Beckett has fewer than four hits.

Colorado cranked out 10 hits against Beckett in their last meeting. Atkins was 3-for-3, while Holliday had a long double to go with his home run. Asked whether that history helps, however, Holliday wasn't so sure.

"Maybe from a confidence standpoint," he said. "But no, it doesn't do anything for tomorrow. That [win] was four months ago."

The Rockies were a team looking for confidence at that point in the season, especially on offense. That's no longer a problem now, and Beckett doesn't think eight days off for the Rockies since their last game will be a problem.

"They're going to be locked in," Beckett said. "That's the way it is in October. I keep saying that. They're not worried about that. It was a good chance for them to rest, and I don't think that any of them are going to be using that as an excuse, and I don't think that that's something that we should use as an excuse, either.

"They've been hitting. They've been taking BP, whether it be in a cage or on the field. Their guys are going to be locked in. That's the way October is."

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Beckett isn't exactly hurting for confidence, either. Not only was he the man who pitched the Red Sox to an opening win in the American League Championship Series, he pitched them back into the series once they were on the brink of elimination facing a 3-1 deficit.

"We've leaned on him all year," manager Terry Francona said last week.

Francona could've used Beckett in Game 7 of the ALCS on Sunday night, and he had him stretching out in the bullpen in case. However, Francona cautioned, he only wanted to go to Beckett if they needed him, not to create a situation for him. Daisuke Matsuzaka's solid performance and two scoreless innings of relief from Hideki Okajima assured that wouldn't be necessary.

The result is a huge advantage in the World Series. Beckett can start Game 1 as planned and Game 5 if necessary Monday in Denver.

Win those two, and the rest of the Red Sox starters can split their starts and hoist a trophy when they're done. Two wins would also put him in position to rank among the better postseasons in recent memory. But holding down the Rockies, let alone beating him, isn't exactly an afterthought.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.