Beckett overpowers Mariners


BOSTON – Josh Beckett has a fastball that reaches about 100 mph and a toughness that stops rallies dead in their tracks.

He showed both Sunday.

Beckett struck out two of Seattle’s best hitters after a runner reached third with one out in the sixth inning and the Boston Red Sox went on to a 3-2 win over the Mariners on Sunday.

“I’d rather have a 1-2-3 inning every time but I was fortunate to make some pitches there,” Beckett said. “I always prided myself in those situations and trying to get out of them. Builds a lot of character.”

Coming off the best of his four seasons with Florida, Beckett joined Boston in an offseason trade and has allowed one earned run in seven innings in each of his three starts for a 1.29 ERA. He gave up six hits and one walk with five strikeouts.

Jarrod Washburn (1-2) gave up only three hits in six innings but issued four walks and threw two wild pitches as Seattle lost for just the second time in five games.

Beckett is 3-0 for the first time in his career, but Curt Schilling has the same record and is Boston’s top starter.

Beckett “is anybody else’s number one,” Seattle’s Richie Sexson said. “We had our hands full today.”

Sexson certainly did.

After Boston broke a 2-2 tie in the fourth with the help of a walk, a wild pitch and a hit batsman, Seattle’s Raul Ibanez tripled with one out in the sixth. Up came Sexson, the 6-foot-8 cleanup hitter. Beckett reared back and fired … just a 79 mph curveball.

“That 3-2 curveball he threw to Richie Sexson today was filthy,” Red Sox second baseman Mark Loretta said. “Richie was still talking about it when I got on first in the ninth inning. … He’s not afraid at all. He’s ultraconfident.”

The next batter was Adrian Beltre, who led the NL with 48 homers in 2004. Beckett reared back again and really fired, a 98 mph fastball that Beltre swung at and missed.

“Either one of those guys can easily tie the game or put them ahead,” Beckett said. “You’re happy with however you get them out.”

Mike Timlin pitched a scoreless eighth for Boston and Jonathan Papelbon pitched a perfect ninth for his sixth save in six opportunities. Papelbon tied Jeff Gray’s team record set in 1990 for saves in one month by a rookie.

“I understand that eventually there’s going to be that day where I may not close the door,” Papelbon said, “but right now I’m just trying to run with it and do the best I can every time I get the ball.”

Boston gave Beckett the lead in the fourth when Jason Varitek singled and took second when a high, outside pitch eluded catcher Kenji Johjima for a wild pitch. The Red Sox loaded the bases when Dustan Mohr walked and Wily Mo Pena was hit by a pitch. Alex Gonzalez then singled Varitek home for a 3-2 lead.

“It was breezy. It affected my command a little bit,” Washburn said. “When I tried to throw a cutter, it cut too much so I shelved that early in the game. It was making my fastball move all over the place.”

The Red Sox had taken a 2-0 lead in the first, scoring one unearned run on a disputed play. A walk to Kevin Youkilis and a double by Loretta put runners at second and third with no outs. After David Ortiz popped out, Manny Ramirez grounded to first baseman Sexson, scoring Youkilis and sending Loretta to third.

Varitek then grounded to third baseman Beltre, whose throw to first pulled Sexson off the bag. The swipe tag appeared to nick a sliding Varitek, but first base umpire Rick Reed ruled Varitek safe and Loretta scored despite Sexson’s protest.

“I thought I got him pretty good, so that’s what startled me,” Sexson said. “But the game’s too long to blame on one play.”

Seattle tied it in the third with the help of another misplay by right fielder Pena, who had misjudged Ibanez’s liner that went for a double in the Mariners’ 3-0 win Saturday.

This time, Ichiro Suzuki was on first on Loretta’s error with one out when Jose Lopez hit a fly ball that tailed toward the right-field line. Pena charged it, but it bounced in front of him then rolled past him as Lopez turned it into an RBI triple. Ibanez then singled him in, tying it at 2.

Notes Suzuki is 0-for-11 in the first three games of the series. … LHP Lenny DiNardo was picked to start for Boston in Monday’s game against Seattle in place of David Wells, who went on the disabled list Saturday. … RF Trot Nixon is expected to return to Boston’s lineup Monday after being sidelined since straining his groin last Tuesday. … Seattle DH Matt Lawton played for the first time this season since being activated last Tuesday. He had been on the restricted list for 10 games after testing positive for steroids last Nov. 2.

AP-ES-04-16-06 1909EDT