Josh Beckett, the Reinvented Man, was at it again Saturday.
He was back throwing blanks, back dropping that curveball from the heavens and back looking like a very different pitcher from the guy who used to sneer and simply overpower hitters.
This Beckett can still throw reasonably hard, but he’s 34 and has embraced the off-speed pitch.
The latest to testify to the effectiveness of this new Beckett were the San Diego Padres, who had absolutely no luck against the right-hander.
Beckett did not give up a run and surrendered only four hits -- all singles -- in seven superb innings, leading the Dodgers to a 4-2 victory the Padres at Petco Park.
Beckett struck out a season-high eight and walked two in raising his record to 5-4.
Despite the so-so record, in his last six starts, Beckett has a 1.58 earned-run average. He’s struck out 38, walked nine and given up 25 hits in 40 innings. That, of course, includes a no-hitter.
The Dodgers’ bullpen, once again, struggled. Paul Maholm and Brandon League combined to surrender a pair of eighth-inning runs, but on this night the collapse was not complete.
Kenley Jansen, who was hit hard in blowing Friday’s lead, held the Padres scoreless in the ninth inning this time to pick up his 21st save.
It was still a scoreless game when Drew Butera opened the third inning with a single off of Tyler Ross. Beckett’s bunt sacrificed him to second and brought up Dee Gordon.
Now leadoff hitters aren’t exactly known for being clutch with runners in scoring position, but Gordon came to the plate 20 for 60 in such situations, and then promptly singled to center to score Butera with the game’s first run.
With Gordon on first and second base empty, everyone and their soccer mom knew what was coming next. The Padres knew, too, and on the first pitch to Hanley Ramirez called for a pitchout, it didn’t matter a single iota.
Gordon not only raced into second base with the steal, but catcher Rene Rivera’s throw sailed into center field for an error, with Gordon happily taking third. From where he then scored on a sacrifice when Ramirez flied out to center.
It remained a 2-0 Dodgers lead until Justin Turner, who has done a better than solid job filling in for the injured Juan Uribe, opened the fifth with a hit. Turner has at least one hit in his last 13 consecutive starts.
Turner took second base on a Ross wild pitch, and two outs later Ramirez singled him home to put the Dodgers up 3-0 -- which, with the way Beckett was going, seemed a superfluous amount of runs.
The Dodgers, who had failed to extend their lead Friday night, were able to add one more in the eighth inning after Gordon and Yasiel Puig were both walked by reliever Alex Torres.
Adrian Gonzalez delivered a run-scoring single to center to score Gordon and the Dodgers had a 4-0 lead.
Beckett did not allow one Padre to reach as far as second in his seven innings, but that all changed in a hurry when Maholm took over to start the eighth. Cameron Maybin immediately tripled.
When Maholm walked Seth Smith with two outs, Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly went to League, who promptly gave up run-scoring singles to Tommy Medica and Rivera. It could have been worse, but shortstop Miguel Rojas made a nice stop on Jake Goebbert's hard-hit bouncer.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times