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Beckett dominates; Florida sweeps Phillies

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Beckett dominates; Florida sweeps Phillies


By Tom D'Angelo, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Monday, April 12, 2004


MIAMI GARDENS -- Josh Beckett wasn't thinking about throwing a no-hitter as he was cruising through his second start of the season.


But with Beckett becoming one of baseball's most dominant pitchers, the Florida Marlins would not be surprised if the young right-hander joins the no-hit club soon.


The Phillies needed 5 2/3 innings Sunday before recording their first hit, and by then the Marlins had staked Beckett to a 2-0 lead. Beckett, 23, eventually turned the game over to the bullpen, which preserved the 3-1 victory at Pro Player Stadium, giving the Marlins a three-game sweep of the pre-season NL East favorites.


"He has that potential every time he steps out there (to throw a no-hitter),'' manager Jack McKeon said.


"He's becoming that (kind of) pitcher and when he polishes it all, then you'll see a no-hitter here and there.''


Second baseman Damion Easley and right fielder Miguel Cabrera each hit solo home runs and Armando Benitez recorded his league-leading fifth save.


Although most of the Marlins are downplaying a 5-1 start and dominance against the 1-5 Phillies (Florida has won 15-of-17 against Philadelphia), Mike Lowell believes the series, in which the Marlins overcame 3-0 deficits in the first two games and never trailed Sunday, has sent a message.


"Coming back the first two games of the series were big victories, I don't care if it's April,'' Lowell said.


Beckett (1-0) allowed two hits and one unearned run in seven innings, striking out 11 and throwing 100 pitches. His curveball was as perplexing as his fastball, and he mixed in a change after the third inning. Even more encouraging was Beckett's curve was not very sharp when warming up in the bullpen.


Beckett was removed for pinch-hitter Luis Castillo in the seventh, a move that produced a run.


The Phillies walked.200-hitting Alex Gonzalez with runners on second and third and one out. Beckett then was called back from the on-deck circle to a round of cheers from the 21,317 in attendance.


Castillo lined a pitch to center field just deep enough for Hee Seop Choi to beat the throw and give Florida an insurance run.


"He probably would have shut anybody down today, (including) the '27 Yankees,'' Phillies manager Admin Bowa said.


Beckett, perhaps the most hyped career.500 pitcher in the game following last season's World Series performance, is taking his start in stride. He has allowed one earned run and struck out 20 in 14 innings.


"I'm just getting ahead and keeping them off-balance,'' Beckett said.


As for a no-hitter?


"If you go out there trying to throw a no-hitter, you're not going to throw a no-hitter,'' he said.


Marlon Byrd broke up the no-hitter with a sharp single to left field that scored David Bell. But Beckett should have been out of the inning without giving up a hit or a run.


Bell led off with a line drive to right field that fooled Cabrera, who froze, then started in and belly-flopped as he attempted to catch the sinking shot. The original ruling was a base hit. After the hit was posted -- and the crowd booed -- the ruling was changed to an error.


"I figured it was an error and then changed by the crowd's reaction,'' Beckett said. "But I don't worry about things I can't control.''


Except for saving Beckett an earned run, the reversal was moot -- but not the play -- as Byrd singled three batters later. If Cabrera makes the catch, Beckett is out of the inning before Byrd's at-bat and, who knows, maybe Sunday would have been that day.


"Flat-out dominating,'' Easley said about Beckett. "The only time I've ever played behind somebody that dominating was in an All-Star Game.


"The kid's got a chance to be special.''


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