BOSTON — For Josh Beckett and the Boston Red Sox, getting jeered at Fenway Park has become par for the course.
The embattled starter did nothing to help restore his reputation Thursday night, getting booed off the field in the third inning of Boston’s 8-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
It was Boston’s 11th loss in its last 12 home games and it happened to come a day after word surfaced that Beckett was playing golf last week a day after he was scratched from his scheduled start with a sore lat muscle in his back.
That angered Red Sox fans, who got in plenty of taunts before Beckett was pulled after 2 1-3 innings with Cleveland leading 7-1.
“I think it was directed at me,” Beckett said. “Smart fans.”
Beckett was unrepentant about his golf outing, saying what he does on his day off is his business. But what he failed to understand, it seemed, was that fans were upset about him golfing when he was supposedly too sore to pitch rather than about him simply hitting the links on a normal off day.
Jack Hannahan hit a two-run homer and Jason Kipnis had a solo shot off Beckett (2-4), who gave up seven runs on seven hits and walked two.
“You never want to get booed at your home stadium,” said Indians left fielder Johnny Damon, a former Red Sox star very familiar with being booed at Fenway Park. “He’s a great pitcher. Had a bad night. He helped bring another championship here, but as we all know that can get lost in time.”
Michael Brantley went 4 for 5 with two RBIs for the Indians.
Derek Lowe (5-1) pitched six effective innings against his former team, allowing two runs and nine hits with one walk and three strikeouts. He was as solid as he needed to be with the Indians’ offense taking full advantage of Beckett’s struggles.
“He knows how to pitch with a lead,” Cleveland manager Manny Acta said. “He had a lot of traffic throughout his outing, but he always seemed to make that pitch when he had to.”
Dustin Pedroia extended his hitting streak to 11 with a leadoff homer in the seventh, cutting Cleveland’s lead to 7-3. But that did little to lift the somber mood at Fenway Park. Boston, last in the AL East at 12-19, has dropped eight of nine overall.
Beckett, who has a 5.97 ERA, was booed just a few hours after manager Bobby Valentine downplayed the uproar over the pitcher’s golf outing.
In his postgame interview, Beckett grew more terse each time his golf outing was mentioned.
“We get 18 off days a year,” he said. “I think we deserve a little bit of time to ourselves.”
It’s not the first time Beckett’s off-the-field decisions and commitment to the team have come into question.
After last season, it was revealed that he was among a group of pitchers who ate fried chicken and drank beer in the clubhouse during games on days they didn’t pitch.
The first homer was Hannahan’s two-run shot into the Boston bullpen, where a few relievers got up and started stretching their arms as it became apparent Beckett would not be out there for long.
It got worse in the fourth when Kipnis led off with a homer, Asdrubal Cabrera singled and Travis Hafner walked. Beckett got a mock cheer when Carlos Santana flied out for the first out of the inning, but the boos came right back when Shin-Soo Choo followed with a double.
Brantley was up next and one fan yelled “FORE!” when he lined a foul ball down the right-field line, but all the chuckles quickly subsided when Brantley doubled to left-center. It was the second straight double for the Indians, ending Beckett’s night.
Fans cheered when Valentine came out of the dugout and immediately signaled to the bullpen for lefty Andrew Miller.
“It’s challenging every night,” Valentine said. “The guys are doing a great job and I tip my cap to them and the offense. We were a bloop away from getting back into this game four different times.”
There wasn’t much to cheer for again until Pedroia came up with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth, but he popped out to second on the 41st pitch of the inning by Vinny Pestano.
NOTES: The Red Sox paid tribute before the game to public address announcer Carl Beane, a day after he died after having a heart attack while driving. The Red Sox went without a PA announcer for their game against Cleveland as part of the tribute, which also featured a moment of silence after a series of still photos were shown on the center-field monitor. … RHP Clayton Mortensen was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket to make room for Daniel Nava, who started in left field. “He pitched plenty well to stay on this staff, but he has an option and we needed a spot and luckily he’s the kind of professional guy that understood totally,” Valentine said. … Valentine said 3B Kevin Youkilis (back) was expected to start throwing again Thursday or Friday, but there was no word on when he could return. … It was Brantley’s fourth four-hit game, tying his career high. … Lowe made his second appearance at Fenway since he helped Boston win the 2004 World Series.