BOSTON (CBS) – There will be dueling aces on the mound when the Red Sox go for a quick two-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers Thursday night.
The Red Sox send Josh Beckett (3-1, 1.75 ERA) to the hill, who has not lost since April 5, while Detroit counters with Justin Verlander (4-3, 2.91 ERA).
Beckett has not allowed a run in his last three outings, keeping the opposition’s offense off the board the last 18 1/3 innings.
“Right now he’s going through that period where we’re seeing the Beckett we really like,” manager Terry Francona said after the Red Sox 1-0 win on Wednesday. “The guy that commands three pitches. He competes (and) he’s working quick.”
Francona mentioned that Beckett has transitioned a few times since coming to Boston in 2006. Beckett has yet to put back-to-back stellar seasons together, but is showing signs of maturation in his 11th season.
“I just think he is understanding pitching, as most guys do as they go through their career,” said Francona. “You make adjustments, you learn, you mature… things like that.”
“When we got him he was one of the elite pitchers in the league,” he continued. “He went through some periods where he got nicked up and it probably effected his pitching. But boy is he good. (His) changeup is softened up a bit. He’s throwing his curveball for strikes, throwing his two-seamer, which opens up the plate.”
Francona credits Beckett for “softening” his changeup in the offseason, a pitch he does not rely heavily on but will throw about a dozen times a game.
Beckett has not gone up against the Tigers in two years, but is a perfect 3-0 against Detroit with a 1.25 ERA the last three times they have met.
On the other side of the equation is Verlander, who has allowed just four runs over 23 innings in May. Two starts ago, he no-hit the Toronto Blue Jays for his second career no-no.
His 62 strikeouts are good for third in the American League.