MIAMI, April 10 -- It didn't matter what Brad Wilkerson thought was coming, because he would see something else. Think fastball, get curveball. Think curveball, here comes the change-up. Florida Marlins right-hander Josh Beckett was on the mound Sunday afternoon at Dolphins Stadium, rocking back, throwing and generally using the Washington Nationals as the latest wall on which to spray-paint the evidence that he's one of the best pitchers in the National League.
"He had me baffled a couple times with the curveball," said Wilkerson, the Nationals' center fielder. "You just never know what to look for. It seemed like for me, all day, that I'd look for a pitch and he'd throw a different pitch."
The Marlins' Matt Treanor tags out the Nats' Nick Johnson at the plate in the first inning. It was the closest Washington came to scoring in the game.
(J. Pat Carter -- AP)
Looking for different views from the Nationals' clubhouse after Beckett's five-hit, 11-strikeout performance in an 8-0 victory for Florida? You won't find them. Wilkerson's opinion could be spat back over and over again, because no National had more than one hit, and all but two starters struck out at least once.
"The guy's aggressive," second baseman Jose Vidro said. "He's nasty. I don't know. Everything was working for him. . . . They just seem to have our number."
Right now, Beckett has everyone's number. The hero of the Marlins' 2003 World Series championship, he opened the season with six innings scoreless innings in a shutout of Atlanta. Throw in Sunday's effort, and he hasn't allowed a run in 15 innings, and has more strikeouts (17) than base runners allowed (11). His response: Lifting weights immediately after the game.
"I executed a lot of pitches," Beckett said. "You always hope whenever you execute a lot of pitches, your teammates are going to get the win."
A ridiculous answer, really. Beckett, not his teammates, got this win.
"I think Jack might have been able to catch Beckett today," said Marlins catcher Matt Treanor, speaking of 74-year-old Florida Manager Jack McKeon. "He threw that good."
Beckett's effort overshadowed an unexpectedly stellar start from Nationals right-hander John Patterson, who has a reputation for having superior stuff and an inability to display it consistently. But Sunday, he was at his best.
"Patterson was outstanding today," Nationals Manager Frank Robinson said. "He couldn't do anything more than he did today."
Patterson retired 10 straight Marlins from the third through the sixth. The problem: At that point, Beckett had sat down 10 straight as well, en route to 14 in a row. The only Nationals base runner over the final five innings was Vidro, who hit a harmless one-out double in the ninth.
By that point, the game had been decided. In the seventh, with two outs and runners on first and second, McKeon sent Paul Lo Duca to hit for Treanor, the number eight batter. Beckett was due up next. Was there consideration given to walking Lo Duca to load the bases and get to Beckett?
"No," Robinson said.
"We never talked about it," Patterson said.
Lo Duca took one strike, but then got a slider that hung a bit on the outside part of the plate. He reached out and shot it to right field, a double that scored both runs. Lo Duca was thrown out trying to go to third, ending the inning, and that was the last batter Patterson faced.
"He deserved better," catcher Brian Schneider said.
Against Beckett, he wasn't going to get any better. The Nationals, in fact, had only two decent chances to score. In the first, Nick Johnson singled and Jose Guillen doubled to left-center. "I got on my horse," Johnson said, "and started running." But a perfect relay from shortstop Alex Gonzalez to Treanor nailed Johnson at the plate and ended the inning.
The only other chance came in the third, when Wilkerson -- who struck out three times -- hit a two-out single and Johnson drew a walk. But Vidro bounced out to second. There would be no other threats from the Nationals, and when relievers Joey Eischen and Antonio Osuna combined to allow six runs in the eighth -- including a grand slam by Juan Encarnacion off of Osuna -- the Nationals packed up quietly and left town. Throw in Dontrelle Willis's five-hitter Friday, and they were shut out twice in three days, outscored in the series 19-3.
"They pitched two great games against us," Schneider said.