When Josh Beckett is firing off "baseball terms" to umpires in the seventh inning and the Red Sox are actually worried that those "baseball terms" are going to end the starter's day, then that is a good thing for the Sox.
There had been more than a few seventh innings this year -- prior to this month -- that had Beckett in such a state that having catcher Jason Varitek and Sox manager Terry Francona take the bullet for him by getting an ejection wasn't really necessary.
But Thursday afternoon it was, and that says something about how one of the most important members of the Red Sox is performing these days.
Beckett allowed just one run over seven innings in the Red Sox' 3-1 win over Minnesota, Thursday, striking out eight and allowing just three hits. It was the pitcher's fifth straight quality start, with his ERA for May now standing at 2.38 for the 34 innings he has pitched in his five starts.
In case you forgot, even with the momentous, seven-inning, one-run, two-hit outing against Tampa Bay in the season opener, Beckett's April was 7.22. Last month he also allowed opponents to hit .303, compared the .222 clip in May.
Beckett made adjustments, both mechanical and strategic. Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell insinuated the pitcher's biggest problem during his bad stretch was pitching to high in the strike zone, forcing foul balls, extra-base and high pitch counts.
He has thrown 108 or more pitches in each of his last seven starts (tossing 111 in Thursday's win), but only in his last three appearances has Beckett made it through the seventh.
"First of all, I think he's really good," Francona told reporters after the game. "I think it was a matter of time. But he's repeating pitches... when he trusts his stuff he starts getting that movement on that two-seamer. Gives a two-seam, four-seam movement. Gives him a little different look. He threw some good changeups, couple good breaking balls. So that gives him a different look."
Having the appearance of a dominant, top-of-the-rotation ace, which has been the case in Beckett's last two outings, was perhaps the most important thing that transpired in the latest Sox' win. And, as he he stated back of the outset of his current run, and continues to reiterate, he is "healthier than he has been in a long time."
In the long run, finding the kind of performances from Beckett like the one put on display in the Sox' final regular season game in the Metrodome might just be one of the most preeminent endulum-swingers in terms of this team's long-term future.
But, still, in among the excellence was that seventh inning, which, of course, included those "baseball terms" and the introduction to umpire Todd Tichenor.
THE RED SOX AND TWINS WERE BOTH 'TICHENOR-ED'
In case you were wondering, Thursday's stint behind home plate was the 32-year-old Tichenor's 13th game this season as a major league umpire, having been called up from the Triple A Pacific Coast League as a replacement.
Mike Redmond, Ron Gardehire, Jason Varitek, and Francona don't care where Tichenor came from, they most likely just don't want to see him any time soon.
First he home plate plate ump quickly tossed the affable Redmond after the Twins' catcher put up a brief, but spirited, argument after applying a tag to a sliding Jeff Bailey, who was tagging up on a Dustin Pedroia fly ball. Bailey had been called safe (although replays suggested otherwise), drawing immediate disagreement from Redmond, which was followed by the catcher's first career ejection.
"I couldn't believe he threw me out, honestly," Redmond told the Associated Press. "I don't go out there, ever, to get thrown out. Especially knowing that Joe (Mauer's) DHing. I can't get thrown out. I really can't get thrown out. I didn't swear at him. I didn't do anything. He just had a short fuse I guess."
As Gardenhire quickly discovered when coming out to protect his backstop.
"I just thought he had a quick gun there," Gardenhire told reporters. "He just puleld the trigger too quick, and I went out to defend and he threw me out too."
Then came the Red Sox' turn.
After six-plus innings of living with a disagreeable strike zone, Beckett had let out his self-described "baseball terms" after not getting a third strike call on Twins' batter Brendan Harris.
"Just some baseball terms.... you can't write it, you can't hear it, so there's no reason to elaborate," Becket told reporters.
Varitek immediately jumped up to protect his pitcher, which promptly led to another ejection by Tischner. And shortly thereafter came Francona's turn.
"Tek's protecting Beckett, I'm protecting Tek -- He got Tek, and that's what I didn't want to have happen," Francona told reporters. "I wasn't fast enough to get out there in time. I'd rather him throw me out than Tek. He's going to have a heck of a lot more to do with the outcome than I will."
As expected, crew chief Jerry Layne defended his young colleague after the game.
"I think it was an emotional time," Layne told reporters. "I think the emotion of the game came into play. I think that's what happened on the second [ejection]. Ron's a great manager and he's going to protect his players and do whatever he has to do to do his job."
It was both Gardenhire and Francona's second ejection of the season, and the Red Sox' manager's 26th (24 as a manager). The Twins' slipper now has 43.
FRANCONA HAD A ROUGH DAY
According to the Boston Herald, after the game Francona was treated for high blood pressure.
“I’m fine,” Francona told the Herald. “I just got a little worked up and my blood pressure shot up. But I’m fine. They take good care of me.”
Wrote the Herald: "A parade of EMTs - one wielding a stretcher and other emergency equipment - entered the clubhouse as players and coaches readied to leave. Two members of the team’s medical staff stood outside the sealed-off trainer’s room and directed players elsewhere as the EMTs examined Francona."
VARITEK IS OFFICIALLY IMPRESSIVE
Varitek, the 37-year-old catcher who so many believed was facing the impossible task of reversing his career's downward trend, hit two more home runs Thursday.
Among major league catchers he now has the second-most homers with 10 (only behind Mauer's 11), the second-most extra-base hits (19), and the third-best slugging percentage (.541).
And then there are the comparisons to last season.
His batting average is currently 28 points higher (.248) then what he finished with last year. Against right-handers -- which he hit .201 against with a .323 slugging percentage in 2008 -- Varitek is at .231 with a much-improved .452 slugging. The switch-hitting catcher has hit an identical five home runs from each side of the plate.
Yet, perhaps most impressive is that Varitek is making contact on pitches that were breezing by him a year ago. In '08 he finished the season having swung and missed at 25.4 percent of his offerings. That number is down to 23 percent.
Fastballs from right-handers he is hitting .273 on, while totaling a .286 clip on heaters from lefties. Last season he only hit .194 on right-handers from righties.
SCHILLING ISN'T GIVING ANY FREE PASSES
Schilling made six All-Star Games, so when he speaks of his feelings regarding whether or not the likes of Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez (i.e., those with the shadow of performance-enhancing drugs looming over their heads) should be included, he has a leg to stand on.
Speaking in his live chat Thursday on 38 Pitches, Schilling was asked what he thought of the fact that Manny and A-Rod are doing so well in the All-Star voting. His answer...
"It's an embarrassing testament to society and what we say and what we do are two very different things."
So did that mean that he didn't think once a player is suspended (like Manny) or has admitted use (like A-Rod) in the course of a season, they shouldn't be eligible for the All-Start Game that season? Or post-season awards?
"Yep," wrote Schilling.