With one out in the top of the sixth inning, Red Sox starter Josh Beckett fanned Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta looking on a cut fastball.
It was Beckett’s lone strikeout in Boston’s 7-3 loss. But it extended to 289 a streak of starts with at least one strikeout for the righthander.
“Does that make me a strikeout pitcher?’’ Beckett deadpanned.
Instead, he chose to keep the talk focused on Thursday night.
“I made some pitches when I needed to and I didn’t make some other ones,’’ he said. “We kind of talk about this a lot. You’re going to have five pitches in a game that you’re going to have to make. I think I made three of them today. The other two cost me three runs in one inning.’’
The Tigers, who pounded five home runs off Beckett in the second game of the season, failed to take him deep Thursday. However, they did string together three hits and score three runs in the third inning.
Beckett (4-5) settled down and ended up allowing four runs on 10 hits over seven innings. He threw 102 pitches, 67 for strikes.
The 10 hits were the most he’d allowed in a game since Oct. 29, 2010.
Despite the high hit total, Beckett has posted a 2.20 ERA in his last four starts dating to May 15. He hasn’t allowed a home run in any of those starts.
“I thought [Beckett] had a real competitive, battling outing,’’ said Sox manager Bobby Valentine. “He gave us a chance to win the game. I don’t know that he had his best stuff.
“He didn’t seem to have his curve working until the sixth inning. He made some pretty good pitches and they [connected on] a few of them for hits, but he did a good job of keeping them at bay.’’
Beckett opposed Max Scherzer, who entered the game averaging an American League-leading 12 strikeouts per nine innings, and showed you don’t need big strikeout numbers to keep your team in a game.
“I’ll take any outs that I can get,’’ said Beckett. “I’m just trying to get as many guys out as I can and save the bullpen.’’
He did acknowledge strikeouts are important.
“It’s nice to get a strikeout when you need one, with guys in scoring position and less than two outs,’’ Beckett said.
What stopped Beckett from posting his usual strikeout totals Thursday night (19 combined in his previous three games) was the lack of location on his breaking ball.
“I don’t think that I had my curveball to put guys away,’’ he said. “It was difficult for me to get the ball down, particularly bouncing the breaking ball.’’
As time has passed, Beckett has become less focused on posting big strikeout numbers and more interested in going deep into outings.
“I think you learn pretty quick that you’re not going to strike a lot of these guys out,’’ said Beckett. “If you try to do that, you can get yourself in more trouble than you need to. You’ll end up 0-2 to 3-2 a lot. As a pitcher you grow up pretty quick from that because you get tired of it - going five innings and having 110 pitches.’’
Beckett is 15 strikeouts shy of tying Luis Tiant (1,075) for fifth on the Red Sox all-time list.