"It's pretty rare that a pitcher has every pitch going, but that was the case tonight," rookie Reggie Willits said of Beckett's four-hit shutout. "Usually a pitcher has one or two pitches going, but he had all of them going -- the two-seam fastball, the four-seamer, a little cutter around 91, 92 [mph], the changeup, the 12-6 curve.
"You could really tell he was confident in everything he had. Usually you feel you're going to get one good pitch to hit, but he was putting everything where he wanted it."
Billed as a duel of Texas gunslingers, Beckett gained the upper hand against John Lackey, whose issues with the Red Sox continued in front of 37,597 at Fenway Park.
While Lackey was yielding four runs and nine hits across six innings, including homers by Kevin Youkilis in the first inning and David Ortiz with Youkilis aboard two innings later, Beckett was simply dominant.
He set down 19 hitters in a row after escaping unscathed in the first, when Chone Figgins led off with a single but was stranded at third. Of the Angels' four hits, two came from Vladimir Guerrero, another by Howard Kendrick, as Beckett walked none and struck out eight.
His gem was the product of 108 pitches, 83 finding the strike zone.
Asked to assess Beckett's mastery, the Angels' Garret Anderson got straight to the point. In the left fielder's view, disturbed perhaps more than he cares to admit by a right eye nearly closed by an infection, it's not the heat, it's the movement that separates Beckett.
"[He was able to get] strike one all night," Anderson said. "[There is] not much more you can say than that. [If] a pitcher with above-average stuff gets strike one, it makes hitting tough.
"He didn't make mistakes and kept it down in the zone. Movement is the key. To me, the speed has nothing to do with it. It's the movement that makes it tough to center."
The movement that disrupted Maicer Izturis' timing in the No. 5 spot, behind Anderson, came from the two-seam fastball darting away as it reached home plate.
"That's a really tough pitch to hit, that fastball that sinks away from you -- especially when you try to do too much and pull it," Izturis said. "He pitched good -- a lot of strikes. [He threw] a lot of first-pitch strikes."
Form held when the power-laden Red Sox got homers from Youkilis and Big Papi to seize an early lead for Beckett, whose variety and precision of pitches were tying up and dispatching uncomfortable Angels hitters.
The Angels let a first-inning opportunity slip away, stranding Figgins at third base after he skillfully worked the count and slashed a single past second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
"I was stealing second and third," Figgins said, both efforts resulting in groundouts by Orlando Cabrera and Guerrero before Anderson struck out to end the threat.
Beckett's run of 19 consecutive outs was the third longest in postseason history. The Angels wouldn't have another baserunner after Figgins in the first until Guerrero singled with one out in the seventh.
Figgins' frustration continued when he lined into outs in the sixth and ninth innings.
"In the ninth, with the big guys coming up and down four, we were still in it," said Figgins, having watched defensive replacement Jacoby Ellsbury stab his liner. "They made some plays, and it didn't work out. The guy [Beckett] made pitches when he had to, so you've got to tip your cap and move on."
Lackey also came out throwing heat, but Youkilis sent his sixth consecutive first-inning fastball over the wall in left-center. The homer was his first postseason hit in his third at-bat.
Following singles by Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, men more familiar with October baseball, Lackey retired Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew to keep the deficit at one.
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As Beckett settled into a groove, his 95-98 mph fastball tying up and erasing Angels hitters, the Red Sox struck again in the third. Two curveballs, two runs. Youkilis doubled to left, and Ortiz lifted his ninth career postseason homer into the right-field corner, tying Jason Varitek for the franchise record.
A full-count walk to Ramirez and a wild pitch led to another run when Lowell punched a full-count single to center.
Hoping to change his luck after losing his two starts against Boston this season, surrendering 20 hits and nine earned runs in 9 2/3 innings, Lackey found Red Sox hitters as patiently uncompromising as ever.
"Honestly, I really think I pitched better than the numbers are going to show," Lackey said. "I really only take back missed location in the first inning on the homer and then missed with Ortiz. Other than that, I'm not that disappointed with it.
"[My] margin of error wasn't real high."
Beckett, of course, was the reason for that. His 51 wins over the past three seasons are the most in the Majors. Lackey is tied for sixth with 46.
The MVP of the Marlins' 2003 World Series conquest of the Yankees, Beckett is a deceiving 3-2 in postseason play. In 51 2/3 innings, he has given up just 25 hits and 12 walks while striking out 55. His ERA: 1.74.
Lackey is now 4-2 in nine postseason games, seven as a starter. His ERA is 3.63.
The Angels will give the ball to co-ace Kelvim Escobar on Friday night, asking him to take the measure of the Red Sox, while Daisuke Matsuzaka, hopefully, is more accommodating than Beckett.