What a difference a year makes.
In 2013, an assortment of injuries limited Dodger pitcher Josh Beckett to eight ineffective starts. The former World Series MVP went 0-5 with a 5.19 ERA, pitching after the sixth inning only once. He was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome and had surgery in July to relieve pressure on the neck in his nerve area.
With his career in jeopardy and the Dodgers still on the hook for his $15.75 million salary in 2014, expectations were low. There was even doubt as to whether the 34-year old could earn a spot in the Los Angeles rotation.
Beckett responded by reinventing himself, going from fire baller to crafty veteran, and in the process, putting himself in the conversation as the best number four starter in baseball.
Going into Tuesday’s start against the Indians, Beckett has put together a 2014 résumé befitting a rotation that includes Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun Jin Ryu. Highlighted by his first career no-hitter May 25th at Philadelphia, Beckett has given the Dodgers a chance to win in each of his 15 starts. Currently in the midst of a 14-inning scoreless streak, Beckett is tied with the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright with a Major League leading seven starts of five or more innings without allowing an earned run.
A glance at the league leaders finds Beckett’s name third in ERA, second in opponents’ batting average, and fourth in WHIP.
Things are going so well for Beckett that his ERA was lowered before throwing a pitch in Tuesday’s start. A scoring decision from his June 15 game against Arizona was reversed, charging Dee Gordon with an error and changing two runs to unearned.
Beckett now stands as an important member of a Dodger rotation that is putting together a historic season. Los Angeles starters lead the Majors with a 2.99 combined ERA and have walked two or fewer batters in 34 consecutive game, the longest such streak by an NL team since 1914.
For the team with the Majors’ highest payroll, anything less than a World Series appearance will be a bust. With Beckett throwing as well as he is, it might be wise for Dodger fans to clear the calendar for the Fall Classic.