Beckett settles down to help beat Blue Jays


BOSTON (AP) – After throwing 36 pitches and walking home a run in his first inning at Fenway Park, Josh Beckett was looking at a short outing and a short honeymoon with the Boston fans.

“It’s not exactly the first impression you want to make,” he said Tuesday.

But Beckett settled down in Boston’s home opener and held Toronto to three hits over seven innings, combining with fellow Florida castoff Mike Lowell to beat the Blue Jays 5-3 and give the Red Sox their fifth consecutive victory.

“He wanted to destroy the dugout after that first inning,” said Lowell, who went 4-for-4 with three doubles. “But the way he threw, to be down one run after that inning, I’d take that.”

Boston took advantage of the Marlins’ latest salary purge to acquire Beckett in the offseason. But the Red Sox also had to take Lowell and his $9 million salary and hope that he bounced back from the worst season of his career.

For one game, Lowell was far more than a throw-in.

“Any time you’re in a new situation, a new team, I think it’s only natural” to want to make a good impression, he said.

Does he think he did?

“I hope so,” he said with a laugh. “If I need to go more than 4-for-4, I’m in trouble.”

A year after an epic ceremony to celebrate their first World Series title in 86 years, the Red Sox held a more downscale event. In addition to the usual fighter jet flyover and ceremonial first pitch, the team asked for a moment of silence in memory of longtime broadcaster Curt Gowdy.

Fenway was sold out, as it had been for the previous 226 games.

“Coming from Florida, opening day is sometimes the only day you have like that,” Beckett said.

The fiery right-hander allowed one run in his Red Sox debut last week to win at Texas and start Boston’s winning streak. His Fenway premiere started poorly but turned out just as good.

Beckett (2-0) walked three in the first inning – along with Vernon Wells’ single to left – before falling behind Shea Hillenbrand 3-1 and the bases still loaded. Hillenbrand moved toward first on a pitch that was called strike two, irking Beckett, then hit into a double play to end the inning.

He didn’t throw more than 15 pitches in any of the next six innings. In the sixth, he needed just five.

“I felt like we let him off the hook,” Blue Jays outfielder Frank Catalanotto said. “To his credit, he settled down.”

Beckett walked four and struck out two, getting a cushion when Lowell, Adam Stern and Kevin Youkilis all doubled in the four-run second. David Ortiz homered in the seventh, a solo shot into the right-field corner for his second of the year.

Josh Towers (0-2) gave up four runs on eight hits and three walks, striking out three in six innings. Catalanotto hit a two-run homer in the eighth, a long drive that went off substitute outfielder Wily Mo Pena’s glove and into the Toronto bullpen.

Jonathan Papelbon pitched a perfect ninth for his fourth save.

Beckett also gave up a double to Aaron Hill in the third, when Trot Nixon fell while diving, and Bengie Molina’s single in the seventh.

Nixon left after three innings with a mild left groin strain and said he would be out five to seven days. Pena entered the game as his replacement.

Notes: Toronto RHP A.J. Burnett allowed two runs and six hits over four innings in his last rehab start for Class-A Dunedin. He struck out four and retired 10 of the last 12 batters he faced. Burnett is scheduled to pitch Saturday against the White Sox. … Blue Jays RHP Roy Halladay was supposed to go Saturday, but he will miss his next turn with a forearm injury, general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. … Boston College and Patriots quarterback Doug Flutie was at the game. … The Red Sox completed an odd 4-6-3 double play to end the fourth: Mark Loretta leaped to catch Molina’s liner, but the ball went off his glove toward shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who picked it up, stepped on second and threw to first.

AP-ES-04-11-06 1846EDT