Teammates celebrate Beckett's accomplishment
Pitcher spent game talking about impending no-hitter
PHILADELPHIA -- It's an unwritten rule of baseball that when a pitcher is in the midst of a no-hit bid and that 27th out is looming not so far away, you don't talk about it.
Josh Beckett broke that rule in his no-hitter against the Phillies on Sunday. Again and again and again.
"I knew when I went in there to warm up that I hadn't given up a hit yet," Beckett said. "I knew the whole time, I was actually just joking about it in the fourth inning, to be completely honest with you. I was waiting for them to get a hit. You don't think that, at this point in your career, that you're going to do that."
Beckett is a different pitcher than he was back in his heyday with Florida and Boston. Last year's rib surgery has forced him to adjust his approach on the mound. He's gone from flamethrower to finesse specialist, and had to rely on his offspeed stuff to secure the no-no.
"He had a really good split-changeup today," said Drew Butera, who was behind the plate for the Dodgers on Sunday. "In the scouting report, I'm sure they say, 'OK, he throws a changeup every once in a while.' But we had that working today, so off his fastball, that changeup was pretty good."
"Once he was rolling, you could see him get sharper and sharper with all his pitches," Adrian Gonzalez said. "I've seen it before, where the more important the game gets, the better he gets."
But forget that he's an aging pitcher who's coming off major surgery and has transformed himself as a player. Backstory isn't important in this instance, according to Don Mattingly. The Dodgers manager would have been impressed if his peaking ace Clayton Kershaw pulled it off.
"It's just impressive, period," Mattingly said. "You see so many guys get deked and not really be able to finish it -- and he kind of talked about it for half the game. He was one of those guys, he wasn't afraid to talk about it. He was basically, [when I checked on him] after, like, seven, he's like, 'You're not taking me out.' And he was talking about the no-hitter the whole time."
For how much of a competitor Beckett is, his nonchalance as he approached history made the happening all the more unique. Traditionally, the no-hitter-bound pitcher is isolated in the dugout, silent and given as much space as he needs.
Butera also caught Francisco Liriano's 123-pitch no-hitter on May 3, 2011, while he was still a member of the Twins. He said Sunday was a completely different experience.
"Liriano was dead silent," Butera said. "Obviously, there was a little bit of a language barrier there, and Liriano was more of a, 'Hey, let's go pitch the pitch, let's stay focused that way.' Beckett was more like, 'Hey, good splitter, let's keep working that.' [Here] it was just more game plan, whereas Liriano was more pitch to pitch."
Even for a pitcher who collected the 2003 World Series MVP Award and 2007 American League Championship Series MVP, Sunday's feat ranks right toward the top.
"Beck's done a lot of stuff in his career, and I know he really wanted this," Kershaw said. "Once it got close, you [could] tell that he really wanted it. It's just fun to get to celebrate stuff like that."
"It's special," Beckett said. "It's something you certainly think about through your career, but very few people have been able to do it. I think it takes really good defense behind you, a little luck sprinkled in there, and making some pitches when you need to make some pitches."
Erik Bacharach is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.