Former Marlins’ Ace Josh Beckett Fires First No-Hitter Of 2014
Los Angeles Dodgers starter Josh Beckett was the pitcher no one wanted.
He was the dead money, $35 million worth, thrown into the mega Boston Red Sox-Dodgers’ trade two years ago.
The 34-year-old Beckett even wondered privately last summer whether he might have thrown his last pitch in the big leagues. And until two weeks ago, he had gone two years without winning a game.
Then, along came the glorious Sunday afternoon, when Beckett stood tall on the mound, mobbed by his teammates, celebrating the greatest regular-season game he ever pitched — the first no-hitter of the Major League Baseball season, 6-0, over the Philadelphia Phillies.
It was the 24th no-hitter in Dodgers’ history and their first since Hideo Nomo in 1996. It was the first no-hitter against the Phillies at home since 1969. And in 321 career starts, it was the first no-hitter in Beckett’s career.
Do you believe in sweet redemption?
“I didn’t think I had no-hit stuff,” said Beckett, once the posterboy for the Red Sox woes in 2012, and a culprit of the infamous chicken-and-beer escapades by pitchers during games. “I really just kept them guessing.”
Oh, he fooled everyone all right. Really, he’s been doing it all season long.
The Dodgers certainly weren’t counting on him this year. He was simply a candidate to make the team as a fifth starter. It’s why they signed Paul Maholm in spring training. Who could blame the Dodgers? He had a rib removed in thoracic outlet syndrome surgery last July to repair condition that was affecting his right shoulder.
He wondered if his career was over.
Let’s face it, if he wasn’t owed $17 million this year, the Dodgers wouldn’t have bothered bringing him back.
He worked out religiously all winter, telling himself if this was it, he was going to go out his way.
“I’m going to throw as hard as I can and see what happens,” Beckett said this spring. “I’ll throw the ball until I blow out, and I’m hoping that’s not for a few more years.”
Beckett, showing no fear Sunday, threw 128 pitches — the last a 94-mph fastball by Chase Utley for the final out and entrance into baseball history.
“It was awesome,” Beckett, who struck out six and walked three, told reporters afterward. “I took a moment in the ninth while I was warming up. It was what it was, and if I threw one, great. If not, I have healthy kids and a healthy wife — and that’s the main goal.”
A year ago, he was the unhealthy one — the numbness in his right hand and arm refused to go away. He was 0-5 with a 5.19 ERA when he was shut down for the season.
“It’s crazy how simple things,” Beckett said, “become difficult to do.”
Beckett showed up at spring training asking only that he be given the opportunity to prove to the Dodgers that he could help them.
“I’m here to try and win a job and let upper management take care of all the other stuff,” Beckett said that February morning. “I want to be with the Dodgers. I want to be a Dodger. I felt like I was treated really good last year through everything and I’d kind of like to help repay that.”
Well, guess who’s been a mainstay in the Dodgers’ starting rotation, showing that same fiery competitiveness that earned him the World Series MVP award in 2003 when the Marlins knocked off the Yankees?
Beckett doesn’t rely on his fastball any longer, but rather his curveball, throwing it almost any time in any situation. He has reestablished himself as one of the most consistent starters in the National League.
Now, nearly two years after the mega trade that included $275 million in contracts, with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and left fielder Carl Crawford going from Boston to Los Angeles, and first baseman James Loney and prospects going to Boston, Beckett has emerged as the biggest surprise in the deal.
Beckett, who opened the year on the DL with a thumb injury, is now 3-1 with a 2.43 ERA. He has yielded two or fewer runs in six of his last eight starts, and, yes, he’s getting better.
“Josh has been throwing the ball good all year,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “For him to be able to do that today is nice, for everything he’s been through with us. The surgery last year, missing the whole season. Changing himself as a pitcher. Using the breaking ball more and everything else.
“It was fun to watch.”‘
If the Dodgers have a sense of humor, they’ll even have chicken and beer on the flight home to Los Angeles. And celebrate the man who is a living testament to what can happen when you refuse to give up.