There was one pitch Josh Beckett threw today that I've been waiting six months to see. It ended the second inning with David Eckstein at the plate, a vicious 97-mph two-seam fastball that took a hard right turn on its way to Varitek's glove, unhittable filth that sent its author sauntering off the field looking quite pleased with himself, and appeared to my welcoming eyes like a fix to a jonesing junkie. A pitching junkie, that is.
In the first three innings, Beckett attacked the game with the hunger of a starved predator, hitting 99 on the perhaps inflated NESN radar gun (Tito referred to him hitting 94 and 95, not 97 and 99 as shown on the TV broadcast.). It might not have been the wisest approach, looking back on how meteorically his pitch count shot up, but it was this Josh I'd been missing, and this Josh I'd wanted to see, full of piss and vinegar even rattling around in the empty tin can that is the Rogers Centre on the third home game in April, getting down with his bad self out there even if only for a few innings.
Clearly, I'm still in the honeymoon phase with baseball. It hit me today that I'm still just so glad to be able to focus my attention on a team not in the business of losing championship games to members of the Manning family and committing rule infractions that lead to Congressional hearings, that it's hard to get too worked up over things like losing a seventh straight regular-season game in Toronto. Although Julio Lugo might want to watch his back.
A few more random thoughts on the games this week:
- It seems Daisuke has overhauled his mechanics, drastically simplifying his motion and staying vertically centered instead of falling off the mound at an angle. It reminds me of what I've seen both Jonathan Papelbon and Josh Beckett develop during their time with John Farrell, who seems to have a knack for trimming wasteful and inefficient motion from a pitcher's delivery.
- Dustin Pedroia. There's nothing more delightful than watching him leap approximately six feet in the air to snag a sinking liner and then land on his feet, grinning at teammates hollering disbelieving catcalls from the dugout. I vastly prefer this to the way he flung himself around in fruitless belly-flops in the previous three or four games.
- I greatly enjoyed the aggressive way Kevin Youkilis played his 194th error-free game this week. He sought out pop-ups from deep in the infield to deep in foul territory, and dug relays across the infield out of the dirt, putting a flourish on his entrance to the record books.
- Today JD Drew hit a game-tying home run just as I was cussing him out pre-emptively. Manny Ramirez made a sensational wall-climbing catch that saved Beckett's bacon just as my Dad was bashing him. Somehow, our irrational hatred must fuel them.
- Reason No. 15,623 why I welcome the return of NESN almost as much as I welcome the return of baseball itself: the little montage of Josh and Halladay set to "Wanted, Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi that began today's broadcast. The 'cowboy' machismo of that song is perfect for both Texas-born Josh and the opponent teammates have nicknamed "Doc."