FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — The last time Josh Beckett and Nick Blackburn pitched, their teams lost the second game of a pair of three-game sweeps in AL division series.
The stakes were much lower on Thursday night when the Boston Red Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 2-1 on Mark Wagner’s tiebreaking single in the eight in the spring training opener for both teams.
Still, both right-handers, who led their teams in innings pitched last season, were happy with their two-inning outings.
Beckett has been working on keeping the ball low.
“I felt like I kept the ball down well,” he said. “I got five ground balls and then (allowed) two hits, one of them a line drive and the other one a ground ball. So things that we’ve been working on the last two weeks, I’m getting there.”
Beckett, who went 17-6 in the regular season before his 4-1 loss in Game 2 against the Los Angeles Angels, gave up two hits and a run before getting his second out. Denard Span led off the game with a single, took second on a groundout and scored on Jason Kubel’s single.
Then Beckett got Michael Cuddyer to hit to new shortstop Marco Scutaro, who started a double play. In the second, Beckett retired the side in order on two grounders and a strikeout.
“That was a great double play, a 3-1 pitch,” Beckett said. “That’s the pitch I’ve been talking about since day one of spring training. You don’t have to make the perfect pitch. You make a decent pitch and the guys behind you pick you up.
“I didn’t make a great pitch on Cuddyer, but Cuddyer hit it where (Scutaro) could go get the ball and turn a really nice double play.”
Blackburn went 11-11 for the second straight year last season then started in the division series when the New York Yankees won 4-3 in 11 innings. On Thursday, he gave up just a single to Dustin Pedroia and allowed only one of the seven batters he faced to hit the ball out of the infield.
“I got to throw some changeups in there, got some bad swings on it,” Blackburn said. “That’s a plus for me. That’s been kind of a challenge the last couple of years to get a slow enough changeup to where we can get some guys out in front of it and a lot of ground balls.”
The Red Sox managed just two hits through five innings before Pedroia’s single scored Darnell McDonald with the tying run. McDonald had pinch run for Dusty Brown, who doubled.
Boston scored the decisive run off loser Jose Lugo when Josh Reddick started the right with a double, took third on McDonald’s sacrifice and scored on Wagner’s single. Wagner, a catcher who joined the Red Sox system in 2005, has yet to play in the majors and is ticketed for the minors again barring an injury to Victor Martinez or Jason Varitek.
Scott Atchison, who pitched a perfect eighth and is in the mix for the final spot in the Boston bullpen, got the win.
Jonathan Papelbon pitched a perfect third in his first game since blowing Game 3 of the division series, giving Los Angeles a 3-0 sweep. Leading 6-4, he allowed three runs in the ninth and the Angels won 7-6.
Thursday was different.
“I thought our pitching did a real good job today,” Boston manager Terry Francona said.
NOTES: The Twins had four hits, all singles. … The teams meets again on Friday in the Twins’ ballpark, also in Fort Myers. … Pedroia and Reddick each had two of the Red Sox six hits.