The Red Sox beat Tampa Bay last night, 4-1, behind six sharp, shutout innings from Josh Beckett (pictured). Beckett picked up his seventh win, allowed just four hits and his ERA is now at 3.80. But the play of the night happened in the sixth inning.
Julio Lugo hit a double high off the wall in center, and when the throw from Wily Mo Pena got away from Alex Gonzalez, Lugo tried to stretch it to third. What Lugo didn't realize was that Mark Loretta was trailing the play, picked up the loose ball and flipped it to Mike Lowell to cut him down. It prevented what could have been a big inning for the Devil Rays.
It also shows what a terrific, smart player Loretta is. When he was struggling in April, I knew that was just a bump in the road for him. I told other Sox fans that he'd come around and be an infield staple for the Red Sox this season. And he sure is. His defense has been rock solid. He made another sterling play at second on a hot shot by Russell Branyan. Loretta is part of what could be the best infield defense the Red Sox have ever had.
Loretta's been red-hot this month. On May 1st, he was batting .217. Since then, his bat has been smoking. He went 2-for-5 last night with an RBI to raise his average to .303. He seems to be that perfect number 2 hitter the Red Sox have not had for a long time. Loretta also seems to have earned the "Professional Hitter" moniker that Bill Mueller carried so well for the Red Sox for the past three years.
Jonathan Papelbon got four outs to earn his major-league leading 16th save. David Ortiz went to 2-for-4 with an RBI after a terrible night on Wednesday, and Kevin Youkilis went 2-for-4 and made another sparkling play at first.
David Wells returns from the DL tonight, and hopefully he can go at least five innings. He'll be facing Sox nemesis Scott Kazmir, who's going for his eighth win. Coco Crisp played an extended spring training game down in Florida, with no ill effects. He still on course to play at Pawtucket on Saturday, and with the Sox in Toronto on Memorial Day.