BOSTON -- Josh Beckett caught Roger Clemens and is closing in on Babe Ruth.
Beckett became the first Red Sox pitcher to win his first six starts since Roger Clemens in 1991 and is just two behind the team record shared by Ruth and two others.
"Roger Clemens, probably over the long haul, has been the best pitcher on the planet," Beckett said after Boston beat the Oakland Athletics 6-4 Wednesday night.
Ruth was an outstanding pitcher for the Red Sox before becoming one of baseball's greatest sluggers with the New York Yankees.
"I know he was a great hitter," Beckett said. "Any time you're mentioned in the same point as Babe Ruth, when you didn't give up one of his milestone home runs, is obviously a tremendous feat."
The injury-plagued Athletics also lost Mike Piazza, who was sidelined for 4-6 weeks with a right shoulder injury suffered when he dove toward third base in the sixth and collided with third baseman Mike Lowell.
"My whole arm went numb," said Piazza, who suffered a strained AC joint. "It's a huge setback. It's just another challenge to try to get by."
Piazza went 2-for-3 and might have helped Oakland even more had he beaten Lowell to the bag.
"He was trying to avoid the tag. He just slid headfirst," Lowell said.
After Piazza was called out, he stayed on the ground holding his right shoulder. His spot in the lineup didn't come up again until the eighth, when Nick Swisher pinch hit for him and grounded into a double play.
Oakland had another chance in the seventh with two outs and runners at first and second, but Beckett (6-0) struck out Mark Ellis for the third time.
"It's still a quality outing, but he wasn't at his best," Boston catcher Jason Varitek said.
In seven innings, Beckett allowed three runs and six hits with seven strikeouts and two walks. It was only the second time this season he had allowed more than two runs.
"I liked the fact that we saw Schilling and Beckett and Papelbon and they are some of the better pitchers in the game," Oakland manager Bob Geren said, "and we had a chance to win both games."
Beckett is the only pitcher with six wins this season, his second since Boston obtained him in a trade that sent Hanley Ramirez to Florida. The shortstop became the NL Rookie of the Year, while Beckett finished with a 5.01 ERA and allowed 36 homers, tied for second most in the majors, and a 16-13 record.
But this season Beckett moved from the third-base side of the rubber to the middle and has relied more on an improved curveball and changeup after concentrating on his fastball in key situations last year.
He became the eighth Red Sox pitcher to win at least his first six starts. The team record of eight is shared by Ruth in 1917, Dave Ferriss in 1945 and Roger Moret in 1973.
Hideki Okajima, the AL rookie of the month for April, pitched the eighth, his 14th consecutive scoreless inning in 14 games. Mike Timlin pitched the ninth for his first save of the season but gave up an RBI single to Todd Walker.
The Red Sox went ahead 4-3 with two runs in the sixth. Varitek singled and Jay Marshall (1-1) replaced starter Chad Gaudin. Varitek took third on Coco Crisp's double and scored on Alex Cora's groundout. Julio Lugo then gave Boston the lead with a sacrifice fly.
Boston finished the scoring on RBI singles in the seventh by Cora and the eighth by J.D. Drew, who broke an 0-for-15 slump.
Beckett retired the first 12 batters before Oakland tied the game 2-2 in the fifth. Piazza led off with a single and took third on Dan Johnson's double. Beckett struck out Bobby Crosby and Danny Putnam, but Jason Kendall lined a two-run single.
"I had three at bats tonight and he didn't really make a mistake on me," said centerfielder Ryan Langerhans, who was traded to Washington after the game. "When a guy with that kind of stuff does that, it's going to be tough to get him."
Beckett allowed another leadoff single in the sixth to Stewart then retired the next two batters. Stewart took second on a single by Piazza and scored on a single by Johnson for a 3-2 lead before Piazza was hurt.
The Red Sox had led 2-0 after four innings but wasted numerous opportunities by stranding seven runners in that stretch, five of them in scoring position.
- Travis Buck, who had three hits Tuesday night, including the tying homer in the ninth, was a late scratch from Oakland's lineup with a sore wrist.
- Every Red Sox batter had at least one hit.
- Johnson had two hits for the second straight game.