Last night there was quite a bit of discussion about Tito’s decision to leave Josh Beckett in the game past the fifth inning with a massive lead. By Beckett’s walk out to the mound for the seventh, Tim McCarver and Joe Buck were positively flummoxed, questioning "why on Earth" would Francona leave Beckett out in such a blowout? To us, there was really not much confusing about it. Beckett was working on a low pitch count (78 through six innings), he was motoring through the Rockies lineup (who had already seen him this year, back in interleague play, so the "they get more looks at him" argument isn’t all that convincing). Though the field was wet, the word from Chris Myers was that only the warning track was really an issue, the rest of the field was playable and safe. And Beckett wasn’t going to be pitching game four on three days rest (or, consequently, a game seven on another three days’ rest): this had already been determined, a decision further solidified by the double-digit lead the Sox held last night. Beckett would be pitching the fifth game on full rest, and that was that.
In a game like football, taking a star quarterback out in the third quarter of a massive blowout has logical justification as intelligent risk management — football is intensely physical, injury risks are prevalent on every play for every player on the field, while the quarterback is probably the one indispensable player on the entire team. In baseball, the risk of injury is much more diminished. Had Beckett been injured it would have been a freak occurrence, not from the normal run of play. And I don’t see why one should always manage against the freak occurrence. 10 or 15 pitches for Beckett (the seventh inning) posed marginal (though not zero) risk to the pitcher’s health. In leaving Beckett out for this "extra" inning, Francona saved the bullpen for a game this evening, should it goes extras. As we saw in game two with Cleveland, there isn’t anything wrong with having more bullets in the holster. There was intention behind leaving Beckett in the game through the seventh. Though it could be reasonably argued that Beckett should have been removed earlier, we didn’t understand the hubbub.