BOSTON -- John Lackey isn’t always the most dominant pitcher, or the most graceful. Lately, however, it hasn’t mattered; the big right-hander is getting results.
Lackey labored through 115 pitches in only six innings of work on Saturday afternoon, but allowed just three earned runs and six hits while striking out five. He left the game with a commanding 7-3 lead, earning his 10th win of the season and his fifth straight decision dating back to July 9.
“I take pride in those kinds of games,” said Lackey afterward. “Its a grinder. When you got to grind through, it’s not always pretty, but at the end of the day if you win, it doesn’t much matter.”
Taking the loss was Yankees ace CC Sabathia, who entered Saturday afternoon’s contest having surrendered only seven earned runs in his last eight starts.
Lackey put on an impressive performance through the first three innings against the potent New York lineup, allowing only two base runners while striking out Yankee captain Derek Jeter twice.
The Yankees finally got to Lackey in the fourth frame when Curtis Granderson led off with a single to right field. After catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s throwing error on a Granderson steal attempt allowed the Yankee center fielder to advance to third, Lackey walked Mark Teixeira and drilled Robinson Cano in the foot to load the bases with nobody out.
Given the circumstances, Lackey escaped the jam relatively unscathed. He got Nick Swisher to ground into a double play that plated Granderson, then allowed only one more run on an Eric Chavez RBI single.
“The first one [to Swisher], I got the ground ball for the double play, and would’ve really liked to make a better pitch to Chavez,” said Lackey of his fourth-inning troubles. “I had him two strikes and hung a breaking ball that cost me a run.”
Lackey threw 35 pitches in the inning, but kept the Sox within striking distance. Boston had scored two runs in the bottom half of the third on a Jacoby Ellsbury sacrifice fly and a Dustin Pedroia double, so the Boston pitcher exited the top of the fourth with the score knotted at 2. Boston promptly scored five runs in the bottom of the frame, giving Lackey a comfortable 7-2 advantage.
“In 35 pitches, he really limited damage, which was good,” said manager Terry Francona after the game. “His pitch count got up in a hurry, and he was still able to go out after that. He used his change-up, used his breaking ball, and, again, only let them have two. That was big.”
Lackey appeared to be out of gas as he entered the fifth. He gave up a leadoff hit to Francisco Cervilli, hit Brett Gardner with a pitch, and surrendered an RBI single to Derek Jeter to start the inning. In an impressive show of resilience, though, Lackey struck out Yankee sluggers Granderson and Teixeira before inducing a ground-out from Robinson Cano to end the inning.
“They make you grind,” said Lackey of the Yankees. “They’re a lot like our lineup. Can’t make mistakes, and it’s kind of a thin line you cross. You want to throw strikes, but you can’t just throw any strike.”
Lackey proved he could handle the grind on Saturday. With the victory, the Sox hurler is now 3-0 in his last three starts against New York dating back to October of last year.