Beckett on pace for historic May

May, 25, 2011
Red Sox starter Josh Beckett pitched well enough on Tuesday night to pick up his fourth win of the season -- and keep his historic month intact.

Beckett was largely without a key weapon, throwing just 16 curveballs in total. Those accounted for two of the five hits he allowed.

"Josh should feel good about himself that he won in this fashion," Jason Varitek said. "It comes down to quality location with his fastball. We threw a lot more changeups and cutters because he didn't have his curve. He threw some real good sinkers."

Despite his curveball being off, Beckett still held the Cleveland Indians to one earned run over 6 2/3 innings as Boston went on to win, 4-2.

Under normal circumstances, that would be an impressive outing. After all, it lowered his MLB-best ERA to 1.69.

But Beckett’s May has been anything but normal. Even allowing just the one run, it pushed his May ERA from 0.39 to 0.60.

With one start left in the month (a duel scheduled against Justin Verlander on Sunday), Beckett is in position for one of the lowest ERAs in May in generations. Over the past 50 years, only four pitchers have made five starts and pitched at least 25 innings in May and finished the month with an ERA lower than 0.60.

In 1968, both Joe Horlen (0.33) and Don Drysdale (0.53) cruised through May, an early dose of what became known as the Year of the Pitcher. But 16 years later, Nolan Ryan set the modern standard for May pitching. Ryan allowed one earned run in 45 1/3 innings in May 1984, a 0.20 ERA. He finished 5-0 that month and 7-11 in all other months that year.

If comparisons to Drysdale and Ryan don’t fully illustrate Beckett’s effectiveness, consider this: Pedro Martinez never had an ERA this low in a full month in his seven seasons in Boston.

Based on ERA, Pedro’s best month in a Red Sox uniform came in July 2002. He went 5-0 with a 0.64 ERA, including three outings of eight shutout innings. After Tuesday, Beckett’s 0.60 ERA still has that beat. Since Boston’s 1946 World Series appearance, only one Red Sox starting pitcher has had a lower ERA in a calendar month (min. 25 innings).

Roger Clemens was unhittable to start the 1991 season. After allowing a run in the second inning on Opening Day, he reeled off 30 consecutive scoreless innings to finish the month. His ERA at the end of April was just 0.28.

Beckett won’t be able to touch that even with a perfect outing on Sunday. His best-case scenario would be 0.46 if he throws a nine-inning shutout.

Jeremy Lundblad

ESPN Stats and Information



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