Beckett leads Red Sox over Cleveland 10-3 in ALCS opener

Beckett leads Red Sox over Cleveland 10-3 in ALCS opener

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BOSTON - Josh Beckett didn't need another shutout to beat the Cleveland Indians. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez took care of that.

Beckett pitched six innings of four-hit ball on Friday night, and Ortiz and Ramirez reached base all 10 times they came to the plate to lead the Boston Red Sox over the Indians 10-3 in the AL championship series opener.

Ramirez went 2-for-2 with an RBI single and three walks - two of them with the bases loaded - and Ortiz went 2-for-2 with two walks and a hit-by-pitch. Ramirez also had two crowd-pleasing catches in left field: one going back, one coming in.

"If they don't give you nothing to hit, just take a walk," Ortiz said.

Ortiz and Ramirez have combined to reach base 29 times in 36 postseason plate appearances, and their offense was plenty for Beckett, who pitched shutouts in his two previous playoff starts.

"He was on tonight," Indians manager Eric Wedge said.

The Red Sox ace gave up a first-inning homer to Travis Hafner before retiring 10 batters in a row. By the time the Indians got another run, Boston led 8-2, C.C. Sabathia was gone and the Red Sox were on their way to jumping ahead in the best-of-seven series.

"We've done that all year," Lowell said. "We've been able to make pitchers work, but together some professional at-bats."

The 2003 World Series MVP and the only 20-game winner in the majors in the past two seasons, Beckett struck out seven while giving up two runs, a hit batter and a wild pitch, and he threw just 80 pitches. He has a 4-2 career postseason record and 1.87 ERA, and the guy following him to the mound may be even better in October.

Curt Schilling, who also has a World Series MVP award on his resume, faces Fausto Carmona in Game 2 on Saturday night.

Sabathia and Carmona were among those tied for second in the AL with 19 wins in the regular season, and they are expected to be Beckett's toughest competition for the Cy Young Award. But in the playoffs, Sabathia hasn't been able to keep up.

"He just never got in sync. When you're talking about facing a team like Boston, they're going to make you work for it," Wedge said. "He's our No. 1, and one of the best in the game. He's proven to me, he's proven to our team, that he can be a little off and find it. Unfortunately, it just didn't happen tonight."

Eight days after struggling but earning a victory in the first-round opener against the New York Yankees, Sabathia gave up eight runs, seven hits and five walks in 4 1-3 innings. The Cleveland ace gave up three consecutive singles in the first inning, then loaded the bases in the four-run third and again in the three-run fifth.

"A pitcher like C.C., when he gives you something to hit, you want to make sure you hit it, because otherwise you might never get to see that pitch again," Ortiz said. "He was a little wild tonight, and you've got to take advantage of it."

Ortiz has reached base 16 of 18 times this postseason, going 7-for-9 (.778) with eight walks and a hit-by-pitch. Ramirez has reached base 11 of his last 12 times since Game 2 of Boston's first-round sweep of the Los Angeles Angels - in the postseason, he's 5-for-10 with seven RBIs.

The balmy temperatures of the division series gave way to a brisk, 54-degree night and a stiff breeze blowing out to right. The mood got more serious, too, with the World Series just one step away.

Hafner put a fly ball into the wind in the first inning and watched as it sailed over the Cleveland bullpen. The shot ended Beckett's hopes of a third consecutive shutout and a record-tying fourth of his career; only Christy Mathewson has done that.

But if the Indians were hoping for a sign that the 27-year-old right-hander was lacking his best stuff, they soon learned otherwise. Beckett struck out Victor Martinez to end the first and retired 10 in a row in all before hitting Ryan Garko to start the fifth.

Hafner's homer put Boston behind for the first time these playoffs.

It didn't last long.

Kevin Youkilis, Ortiz and Ramirez all singled in the bottom half of the first to tie it 1-all. In the third, the Red Sox sent nine batters to the plate and scored four more runs to give Beckett a cushion.

Julio Lugo doubled and took third on Dustin Pedroia's sacrifice bunt. Youkilis walked, and Sabathia hit Ortiz to load the bases. Ramirez walked to bring in one run, and Mike Lowell, who had three RBIs, brought in a pair with a ground-rule double. Jason Varitek made it 5-1 with an RBI groundout.

Bobby Kielty, making a start in right field in place of J.D. Drew, had a two-run single in the fifth.

Notes: Mike Timlin made his 21st championship series appearance, tying Rick Honeycutt for second place. Mariano Rivera is first with 25. … The attendance was 36,986. … The eight runs allowed by Sabathia were his most since July 21, 2006. … Everyone in the Red Sox starting lineup had at least one hit. … In 15 playoff innings, Beckett has 15 strikeouts and no walks. … Casey Blake and Kenny Lofton each had a pair of doubles for the Indians.

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