Beckett, Ortiz lift Boston

Friday, June 26, 2009 10:29 PM
Last updated 11:01 PM
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ATLANTA – Josh Beckett threw seven more scoreless innings against the Braves and David Ortiz homered, leading the first-place Boston Red Sox past slumping Atlanta 4-1 tonight.

Beckett (9-3) has faced the Braves twice in the past seven days – and still hasn't given up a run. He threw a five-hit, no-walk shutout at Fenway Park last weekend. This time, he allowed six hits, struck out six and didn't walk anyone before turning it over to the bullpen.

Ortiz continued to show signs of bouncing back from his miserable start. Big Papi is hitting .333 over his last 17 games, with seven homers and 14 RBI, though he's still batting just .218 overall.

The Red Sox have won 17 of 23 to strengthen their hold on first in the AL East. The Braves, on the other hand, lost their third straight and 11th in the last 16. They have won only one series in the past month and will have to win two straight against Boston to avoid losing another this weekend.

Atlanta didn't do anything against Beckett, who allowed only one runner past second base. Diory Hernandez led off the third with a double and moved up on a forceout but was stranded when Chipper Jones took a called third strike.

The Braves started the fourth with consecutive singles by Garret Anderson and Casey Kotchman. They didn't get any farther – Jeff Francoeur struck out, David Ross flied to right and Hernandez grounded out.

Braves starter Jair Jurrjens (5-6) allowed three earned runs in eight innings but got no offensive support, a familiar theme for the young pitcher from Curacao. He's 0-4 over his last five starts, his teammates providing only nine runs during that span. Overall, the Braves have scored three runs or less in nine of his 16 starts.

Ortiz broke up a scoreless duel in the fifth, leading off with a drive into the right-field seats for his eighth homer of the season and 297th of his career. Compounding Jurrjens' woes: He was twice called for balks, both of which contributed to Boston runs.

Dustin Pedroia led off the sixth with a double, moved up when Jurrjens flinched in the stretch, and came home on J.D. Drew's groundout. The Red Sox broke it open with two runs in the eighth, a miserable inning for the Braves that included two walks, another balk and a passed ball on Ross that allowed Pedroia to score from third.

In the eighth, the Braves put their first two batters on against Hideki Okajima, who then struck out the heart of Atlanta's order – Jones, Anderson and Kotchman. But Atlanta avoided the shutout when Ross homered off Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth.

While the Braves have lost three of four this week to AL East teams Boston and the New York Yankees, at least they've bolstered their bottom line.

The crowd of 48,418 – many of them chanting "Let's go Red Sox!" – was Atlanta's second sellout in a row and fourth straight turnout above 40,000. The Braves had not managed a crowd that large since selling out their home opener on April 10.


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