A humble Beckett never thought he'd get no-hitter

A humble Beckett never thought he'd get no-hitter
May 25, 2014, 8:15 pm
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Josh Beckett, a three-time All-Star, a 20-game winner and a World Series MVP, picked up his first career no-hitter in a 6-0 Dodgers win over the Phillies on Sunday. (USA Today Images)

For the first time since tagging out Jorge Posada to clinch the 2003 World Series, Josh Beckett was the center of his team's field-rushing celebration on Sunday.

Beckett pumped his fist as his Dodgers teammates swarmed the mound to rejoice in his first career no-hitter, a 6-0 shutout (Phils' bats had it coming) over the Phillies.

The three-time All-Star and former World Series MVP struck out Chase Utley looking to seal baseball's first no-no of the season.

"It's special," Beckett said. "It's something that you certainly think about throughout your career, but very few people have been able to do it."

Just last July, the 34-year-old had a rib removed during thoracic outlet syndrome surgery to repair a condition in his throwing arm.

He made just eight starts in 2013, going 0-5 with a 5.19 ERA and had to watch from the bench as his team dropped the NLCS to the Cardinals in six games.

"I wanted to help the team. You always want to be a part of the solution, not part of the problem," Beckett said. "I certainly felt like last year, if I could've stayed healthy ... pitching through the playoffs I could've helped those guys."

Entering 2014, he was 7-19 with a 4.76 ERA in his last 36 starts -- 15 with the Dodgers and 21 with the Red Sox, who shipped him to L.A. along with Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford as part of a salary dump in August 2012. He's on the books for nearly $16 million this season.

As if it could get any worse, the presumably washed-up former fireballer began the year on the DL with a thumb injury. After sitting out most of spring training, he made his first start on April 9 against the Tigers and allowed five runs over four innings.

But since his clunker of a debut, Beckett has shown flashes of his former self. On the season overall, he's gone 3-1 with a 2.43 ERA, 52 strikeouts and 20 walks in 55.2 innings.

"Josh has been throwing the ball good all year," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "And for him to be able to do that today is nice.

"Just for everything that he's been through with us -- the surgery last year, and he missed [most] of last season -- he just seemed to change himself as a pitcher and is using the breaking ball more. It was nice."

Beckett kept the hapless Phillies clueless all afternoon. He struck out six and walked three -- Utley in the first, Marlon Byrd in the second and Jimmy Rollins with two outs in the ninth. Between free passes to Byrd and J-Roll, he retired 23 in a row.

"I just don't feel like my stuff is good enough to do that," Beckett admitted. "I'm probably as hard on myself as anybody, but I just sprinkled in some curveballs and changeups and kept them off-balance."

The only ball the Phillies really hit hard at all came in the fifth inning, when Domonic Brown flew out to the left-centerfield warning track. It was one of just seven times the ball left the infield.

"Today was his day," said Beckett's former teammate A.J. Burnett, who took the loss. "You have to tip your hat to the man. He was on. What more can you say?"

Beckett, apparently, could say a lot. According to his manager and teammates, he didn't stop yapping about the possibility of a no-hitter from the fourth inning on.

"He made me a nervous wreck in the fourth inning because he said, 'I've never taken a no-hitter past the first inning,'" catcher Drew Butera recalled. "He's a guy that if he's going good or going bad, he's going to keep it loose -- either going to make fun of himself or make fun of somebody else."

So there were no superstitious routines going on in the visitors' dugout?

"He took that all away because he kept talking about it," Mattingly said. "There was no silence or anything like that."

Even to a random policeman sitting next to him in the Dodgers' dugout, Beckett couldn't help himself from breaking one of baseball's unwritten rules.

"It was like the third or fourth inning, and we're talking about a no-hitter, stuff like that," Beckett said, "and he was like, 'Well, if you throw one today, I get to keep your jersey.'

"And I was like, 'Well, I don't know if I'll give you my jersey, but I'll get you something.' So I gave him the last bat that I had, because I broke all those others in New York."

Beckett was actually incorrect in insisting he never took a no-hitter past the first inning. He took one into the seventh inning with Boston in June 2009. And he once tossed a one-hitter in a shutout in June 2011 -- current Phillie Reid Brignac had the only hit in that one, an infield single.

"I knew when I went out there to warm up that I hadn't given up a hit yet," Beckett joked after being corrected. "I knew the whole time.

"I was actually just joking about it in the fourth inning. To be completely honest with you, I was just waiting for them to get a hit. You don't think at this point in your career that you're going to do that."

Actually, whether it was in jest or not, he was thinking about it the whole time -- when he was warming up before the ninth inning, when he induced a popup from pinch-hitter Tony Gwynn Jr., when the 36,000-plus fans rose to their feet after Ben Revere grounded out for the second-to-last out, when he walked Rollins on a full count to bring up Utley …

"I was thinking about Chase Utley coming up," Beckett said. "And how good of a baseball player he's been for the last 15 years. So I was just composing myself and thinking what I wanted to do with Chase."

Beckett himself has been a pretty good baseball player for the past 15 years or so.

And even after three All-Star seasons, a 20-win campaign, two World Series rings and an MVP -- he never got that no-hitter… until Sunday.

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