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FL’s Beckett Blanks Yanks in Final Game

By Yong-yi Zhu

COLUMNIST

Don’t mess with Texas. Saturday night, it might as well have been don’t mess with Beckett. Josh Beckett, the 23-year-old from Spring, Texas, pitching on three days rest, single handedly shut down the mighty New York Yankees and brought the Florida Marlins their second World Series championship since their inception.

Beckett gave up a stingy five hits and two walks while striking out nine en route to the win. This is the second key outing in a series-clinching win for Josh Beckett inside of a week-and-a-half. His last appearance was in the National League Championship Series, game seven, on two days rest, throwing 45 pitches to beat the Cubs. He wasn’t the winning pitcher on record, but he gave the Marlins the biggest lift in pitching those four strong innings.

But that was still against the Cubs. This time, it was different. This time, it was against the evil empire. This time, it was for the World Championship. It seemed like Beckett had everything against him.

Instead of a possible implosion, Beckett calmed down and began the game brilliantly, giving up only three hits in the first six innings. The Yankees never had seemed to have a chance against him.

When Posada doubled to lead off the seventh inning, it appeared as though the Yankees were going to break through. Again, when Soriano singled to lead off the eighth, Beckett seemed slightly vulnerable. But both times, he merely shrugged off the mystique of the Yankees and calmly let his right arm do all the talking.

With the win, and the great performance against Mike Mussina in game three, Beckett deserved to earn the honor of World Series MVP. There was no one more fitting. Not only did he play well, but also he played well when his team truly needed him, coming to pitch on two and three days of rest. In fact, this was his first start pitching on three days rest in his career. Nothing physical seemed to get to him.

All of the hopes of the Marlins were banking on Josh Beckett. Had he lost, it would have gone to a seventh game in which Carl Pavano would have to pitch on three days rest. That might have been disastrous, given that Pavano is not built as tough as Beckett. But in the end, Beckett came through in the clutch, delivering the knockout blow Jack McKeon needed from his young starter.

It seemed rather fitting for a Texan to win the big game in this series. After all, Roger Clemens has thrown his last pitch and it is time for another Texan hurler to take the stage. The World Series surely was the grandest of them all.

But this magical ride was not without much turbulence. At one point, A.J. Burnett, Mark Redman, and Beckett were all sidelined with various injuries, the Marlins were on a torrid losing streak, and Jeff Torborg was still their manager. Some of Beckett’s actions helped to stabilize the ship that appeared to be sinking fast.

When Burnett went down and had to have reconstructive elbow surgery early in the year, there was much turmoil in the Marlin organization. In May, Beckett went down with elbow problems as well. People said that the management was pitching the young arms too much for their own good. They would kill the talent that they have now.

However, Beckett, in a bold statement, came out and said that he did not feel as though the Marlin organization was pitching him too much. He went on the disabled list, and eventually came back to finish up the season, the season in which after mid-May, the Marlins had the best record in the major leagues. Josh Beckett was a large part of that.

It’s hard to imagine that the last time the Marlins won the World Series, Josh Beckett was still 17, graduating from his high school. He is now only in his third season as a major league pitcher.

As I sat watching him Saturday night, I was completely awed by his ability. Jeter, Giambi, and Matsui were all just pawns to Beckett’s mastery.

He blanked the Yankees. He blanked the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. Not since Jack Morris had someone finished the World Series with a complete-game shutout. Not since 1981 had someone come into the Yankees’ house and beat them to win the World Series. That all changed tonight. With an elegant 107 pitches and a tag of Posada on the first base line, Beckett accomplished what seemed the impossible.

The Empire can strike, but Josh Beckett will not flinch.