Boston Red Sox's Jeremy Hermida (32) is congratulated by teammate Jason Varitek, right, in front of Kansas City Royals catcher Jason Kendall after a solo home run off Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Zack Greinke during the fifth inning of a baseball game Saturday, April 10, 2010, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

With his bullpen being beat up in the first four games, Boston Red Sox skipper Terry Francona needed his ace, Josh Beckett, to step up and eat some innings while keeping them in the game.

Francona got that and more as Beckett was able to go seven innings and may have gone further had he not been roughed up a little bit in the 7th. Beckett was a much different pitcher than he was on Opening Night as he had good command of all of his pitches including his curve. It was definitely a relief to see Beckett back in control.

It does make you wonder if Beckett pitched better with Jason Varitek behind the plate.

In four games with VMart as his catcher, Beckett has allowed 18 earned runs in 21 innings. Varitek has caught Beckett 105 times and has a 3.77 ERA (288 ER in 686.2 innings).

Obviously Beckett is more comfortable with Tek back there but he’ll probably tell you it doesn’t matter who catches him. Obviously Tek won’t be around after this year so Beckett will have to get a better rapport with VMart (assuming the Red Sox sign him to a contract extension).

Even the bullpen chipped in as Hideki Okajima and Ramon Ramirez both were perfect in their innings of work.

The big story of the night though was the play of the Red Sox bench.

Tek, Jeremy Hermida and Mike Lowell all got a chance to play leaving Bill Hall as the only member of the bench to not see any action.

Both Hermida and Tek had home runs, with Tek hitting two of them. Lowell also added a single and looked like he hadn’t missed a beat as he made a few nice defensive plays including a great diving stop.

Given what happened with them on Saturday night, it will be interesting to see how Tito works them into the lineup going forward, especially if David Ortiz continues to struggle.

We’ll be back in a bit with the lineups, batter/pitcher matchups and late links but for now continue reading for the morning Red Sox links.

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Nick didn’t knock Beckett off stride [Boston Globe]

Lowell talking retirement after this season [Boston Globe]

Red Sox use their backup plan to perfection [Boston Globe]

Don’t count on covering any bases with Gonzalez [Boston Globe]

Josh Beckett’s effort has deep impact [Boston Herald]

There may be a catch to Josh Beckett’s success [Boston Herald]

Start of end for Mike Lowell? [Boston Herald]

KC started it all for David Ortiz [Boston Herald]

Sox use backup plan [Boston Herald]

Tek support an X-factor [Boston Herald]

Dice-K gets win but not satisfied [Boston Herald]

Right On Target [Boston Herald]

Down market [Boston Herald]

The other guys come through [Clubhouse Insider]

Beckett Better Second Time Around — and Sox Notes [CSN New England]

Bench Pressing: Sox 8, Royals 3 [ESPN Boston]

Five things we learned on ‘Daisuke Day’ in Pawtucket [Full Count]

Closing time: Red Sox were battery-charged in win [Full Count]

Mike Lowell Doing Best to Keep Open Mind in Reserve Role []

Red Sox Bullpen Struggles Should Not Be Cause for Concern []

Jeremy Hermida Cranks Home Run, Bench Pitches in for Victory []

Should the Red Sox Consider Moving Daisuke Matsuzaka to the Bullpen? []

Bench Players Help Red Sox Snap Three-Game Losing Skid []

Varitek and Beckett make sweet music together [Projo Sox Blog]

Reserves lead way past K.C. [Providence Journal]

Red Sox Journal: Kapstein paved the way for cousin [Providence Journal]

Matsuzaka looks sharp in his rehab outing for PawSox [Providence Journal]

Bard’s misfortune is the nature of the game [Providence Journal]

In 1884, only real men dared play the game [Providence Journal]

Varitek bashes two homers in season debut []

Bard an early workhorse for Red Sox []

Francona empties out bench against Greinke []

Lowell contemplating retirement after season []

Five Things We Learned: The Red Sox Can Hit Good Pitching [Rob Bradford –]

For more slices of Boston Red Sox goodness, head over to the Boston GlobeBoston HeraldESPN BostonNESNProvidence Journal and WEEI websites.

And if you must check out the enemy papers, head over to the Kansas City Star and the Topeka Capital-Journal websites.