BOSTON -- Josh Beckett rescued himself from the rough Tuesday in the Red Sox's 5-0 win over the Mariners that was meaningful not only for a pitcher who has taken his share of flack, but a team whose starters could not get on track until five games ago.
Now one full turn through the rotation, the Red Sox (17-19) leave Fenway Park for St. Petersburg with five straight victories, all of them built on quality starts. The Sox have the longest active win streak in the American League, and they've won back-to-back home series for the first time since July 2011.
"I don't know if [the hitters] talked to [the pitchers]," manager Bobby Valentine said. "I think the message was just sent. You know, they're leading the league in runs scored. Let's be a team here. I don't know if any messages were written on the wall, the bathroom wall, or if anything was even said verbally, but there were some disgruntled situations last week."
Early on in Beckett's seven innings of shutout ball on 93 pitches, it was clear in the dugout that the righty, who turned 32 Tuesday, was on point.
"He had a great presence all week," Valentine said. "David Ortiz whispered in my ear and said, 'Watch him pitch today,' in the second inning. It was a 1-2-3 first, but he saw it in the first inning. There was something there. He belongs on that hill. That's his saddle. He looked very comfortable today."
Beckett struck out a season-high nine batters and allowed just four hits and two walks. He struck out the side in the third inning, giving him six strikeouts and no hits allowed to that point.
The spectacular outing was a complete 180 from Beckett's outing vs. the Indians on Thursday, when he was booed off the mound after allowing seven runs over 2 1/3 frames. That outing came on the heels of golf-gate, the term encapsulating the public backlash Beckett received for golfing on an off-day when his second-to-last start was skipped as a precaution for his health.
Beckett said he didn't approach the game any differently, but acknowledged the trying time.
"My family's been great, as they always are," said Beckett, who's 3-4 with a 4.97 ERA in seven starts. "I heard from some other baseball guys and stuff like that. It's been nice."
Beckett's fastball and curve were forceful against a young and mostly left-handed and pull-happy Mariners lineup. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who caught Beckett for just the second time this season, said the questions of Beckett's commitment should be forgotten.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's a dead issue," Saltalamacchia said. "That was something that I think was made too much of. Josh has never come into this clubhouse when it was his day to pitch and not been a professional about it and been 100 percent. As far as all that goes, I think it was just frustration. He's a professional and he always has been and he's the guy that I want pitching for me."
Ortiz's eighth homer of the season put Boston ahead 1-0 in the third, off Mariners right-hander Blake Beavan, who finished with the same number of pitches as Beckett (93) in four innings. Beavan, who's 23, gave up three of Boston's runs.
"You guys [in the media], you've got to take it easy, man," Ortiz said of Beckett. "We are human here. We come and play the game. We try to do the right thing. We've got a personal life, too. We are human, just like everyone else."
Ortiz, 2-for-3, also had a bunt single, the team's first of the season.
"It's me hitting. Nobody else," Ortiz said when asked whose call it was for the big man to drop one down the third-base line while the infield was shifted toward first base. "I do whatever I want to do. ... We're going good right now, we're winning games, everybody's going about their business. We're trying to keep it that way."
On a drizzly afternoon, Beckett had a little help from some hard-hit balls that found the glove in the later innings, pitching with what he called "guile." The mound also started to become problematic, as he and Beavan's left feet landed in identical spots.
"He was in and out, using his offspeed stuff," said Justin Smoak, whose long foul ball was reviewed by umpires in the second inning before he struck out. "Give him credit. He did his job, but we feel we could have done a little better than we did. We hit some balls hard, but that's part of the game."
Mike Aviles, whose defense at shortstop Valentine praised before the game, added an athletic, ranging play in the second inning, diving up the middle and throwing to first to rob Kyle Seager of a hit. Aviles also had an opposite-field double to the gap in the fourth that plated the first of Boston's two runs in the inning. Boston led 4-0 after five, and Rich Hill and Alfredo Aceves took care of the final two innings once Beckett left.
Rare are the points in a baseball season where offenses, rotations and bullpens are simultaneously effective, and it's a stretch the Sox are enjoying.
"We're going to bring some positive around here now," said Dustin Pedroia.