Beckett struggles in final inning; Red Sox win on Ambres homer

Posted March 27, 2009, at 10:27 p.m.

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox Manager Terry Francona was upbeat about Josh Beckett’s outing — never mind the ugly numbers.

Beckett gave up four runs and six hits in six innings, and Chip Ambres hit a three-run homer with two outs in the 10th inning to give Boston an 11-8 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday.

“I thought today was his strongest outing of the spring,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “He gets into the sixth. He gets two quick outs, 3-2 pitch, and all of a sudden he strings together four hits. So, his day ends on that note. But I thought he was strong and he located. Even when he was throwing balls, they were close. I was really pleased.”

The Red Sox had a 4-1 lead going into the sixth when the Cardinals scored three runs.

“I felt like I made some good adjustments today from this start, looking back on my last one,” Beckett said. “Obviously, the results were not where you want it to be. I mean, when your team scores you three runs, you don’t go out and give up four.”

Beckett is on track to be Boston’s opening-day starter. It will be his first such start in a Red Sox uniform after making three for the Marlins.

“Obviously, it’s something that you’re always striving for,” he said. “When you get to the big leagues, that’s something you look forward to. And that’s definitely something that I’m looking forward to.”

Ambres, a nonroster invitee, hit his second home run of the spring — on the first pitch of the at-bat.

“It’s always special to get in a situation like that and come through, especially with a game-winning home run,” he said.

Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse pitched five innings, allowing six runs — five earned — on 11 hits and two walks, striking out two.

“It was one o those outings where I obviously didn’t have very good stuff,” Lohse said. “I was kind of all over the place. A lot of stuff over the middle. It’s a good lineup over there and if you’re missing spots like I was, they’re going to put good wood on it and find holes, and that’s what they did.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa met the team in Fort Myers after missing Thursday’s game to serve as a pall bearer at his mother-in-law’s funeral in Virginia.

“He competed. … I hope he’s not too hard on himself,” La Russa said of Lohse. “He gave up a lot of hits on his fastball. He had a tough inning (the first). Started out tough, and he was able to bring it back together.”

Nick Green, in contention for Boston’s utility infielder job, went 3-for-5 with a run scored. Jason Varitek, hitting just .194, went 2-for-3 with a two-run home run, his third of the spring.

David Freese went 3-for-4 with a home run, two RBI, and a run scored for the Cardinals, while Albert Pujols was 2-for-5 with a run scored and one RBI.

Notes: Red Sox shortstop Julio Lugo, who had arthroscopic surgery in Boston March 17 to repair the meniscus cartilage in his right knee, was in the team’s clubhouse Friday morning, after returning from Boston Thursday night. He expects to be playing again in three to four weeks. … Right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka threw 54 pitches his first bullpen session of the spring in a Red Sox uniform. He returned Wednesday night from the World Baseball Classic, where he was named the MVP for the second time.

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