Haren stifles Red Sox in opener
Ace righty tosses seven sparkling innings, outduels Beckett
BOSTON -- So let's get this straight. What the D-backs needed to get back on the winning track was a visit to a historic park to face the American League's top team and one of the game's best pitchers?
In yet another example of why the D-backs are so hard to figure, they snapped their three-game losing streak thanks to starter Dan Haren, who outdueled Josh Beckett for a 2-1 win in front of a sellout crowd Monday night at venerable Fenway Park.
The D-backs came into this one having just been swept by the Twins in Minnesota and in dire need of something to snap them out of a slump that had seen them go 19-29 after a 20-8 start to the year.
Pregame rain forced the cancellation of batting practice, but the D-backs players managed to walk around the ballpark and experience the game's oldest park, many for the first time. Rather than intimidate this young group, the atmosphere seemed to invigorate them.
"We didn't play well in Minnesota, and we come into a place like this where there is a lot of electricity, and it's fun to play," D-backs manager Bob Melvin said. "I think they could put Minnesota in the past and just go out there and try to play off the adrenaline and off the emotion of this ballpark."
That was certainly part of it, but the main thing the D-backs had working for them on this night was the right arm of Haren, who had arguably his best stuff of the year. He mixed his fastball, breaking ball and split in allowing just two hits in seven shutout innings.
"That was probably one of the best games I've caught," said Chris Snyder, who has been on the receiving end of some Brandon Webb gems. "After that last inning, I looked at him and just the look on his face, that was everything he had. He was going all out."
Haren (8-4) needed everything he had to go through a lineup that came into the game second in the American League in runs scored and a group of hitters known for working pitchers extremely hard.
"Against a lineup like that, you can't fall behind," Haren said. "You can't walk guys. I was pretty aggressive with my fastballs. I probably threw more fastballs than I usually do. It's such a good lineup. I've faced them quite a bit. When I was ahead, I made sure I stayed ahead."
|"It's one of the best games we've played. It's one of the best games feeling-wise that we've had all year."|
|-- Bob Melvin|
In the seventh, the D-backs managed to break through when Conor Jackson led off with a walk. After Chad Tracy struck out, Mark Reynolds blooped a single to left and Chris Young followed with a line drive high off the Green Monster in left that scored Jackson.
"It was just a poorly executed pitch to Young," Beckett said. "Trying to get a sinker down and in and it caught two inches too much of the plate and he hit it, he hit it well."
Snyder then hit a broken-bat grounder to first that Brandon Moss, who was making his Major League debut at the position after replacing injured Kevin Youkilis in the fifth, couldn't field cleanly. Reynolds, running on contact, scored on the play as Moss, because of the bobble, was forced to tag Snyder in front of the bag rather than throw home.
That gave Haren a 2-0 lead, and after he pitched out of a second-and-third, one-out situation in the seventh, his night was done at 98 pitches.
"He was cooked," Melvin said.
"It's different after 100 pitches here," Haren said. "The adrenaline going in a nothing-nothing game. There is so much effort in every pitch. Here, every pitch meant so much, especially the last inning, being second and third, tying run at second. I'm letting pretty much every pitch go, and snapping every breaking ball as hard as I could. It was a max-effort 100 pitches."
That left the D-backs with two innings to fill, and things got a little dicey in the eight for setup man Tony Pena when the Red Sox loaded the bases with one out for J.D. Drew.
Drew came through with a sacrifice fly and Manny Ramirez battled Pena for seven pitches before hitting a bullet that Reynolds caught in self-defense at third.
"He almost hit it through the third baseman," Boston manager Terry Francona said.
Watching on television in the clubhouse, Haren jumped out of his chair when Ramirez hit the ball thinking for sure it would go for a hit.
"I think Reynolds' life flashed before his eyes on that one," Snyder said. "It's about time we get away with one. As many balls as we've hit right at guys, and in the series against the Twins, as many balls they hit in the hole. It's been overdue that we do something like that and get away with it."
Closer Brandon Lyon retired the Red Sox in order in the ninth on just five pitches for his 16th save.
"It's one of the best games we've played," Melvin said. "It's one of the best games feeling-wise that we've had all year."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.