Once again, a few mistakes sink Lackey

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- No, John Lackey said, the ankle he rolled over on Monday had no effect on his performance Sunday.

"They had it taped up so much I would have had to break my leg to roll it over again," he said.

Walking the first two batters of the game and going to a three-ball count on the third was all on him, he said. A little trouble early on with location, which he amended rather quickly, issuing no more walks in his seven innings.

But with Lackey this season, there has been precious margin for error. A couple of walks early resulted in a run. A couple of soft hits and stolen bases in the second, two more runs. One misdirected pitch in the third, and Alex Gordon hits a ball over the fence.

It doesn't take much to keep Lackey out of the win column. No matter that the Royals didn't score again. The man who was on the losing end of a 2-0 defeat in Houston on Monday was a 4-3 loser Sunday.

For the fifth time in his last seven starts, Lackey left with the Sox having scored fewer than four runs for him while he was in the game. In the other four, they hadn't scored at all. Of his 21 starts, the Sox have scored three or fewer 13 times while he was still on the mound.

Not that he complained. Not a peep, in fact.

"Most nights, yeah, we have a good offense," he said. "That's why you try to hang in there, especially in a one-run game."

Given the number of low-scoring games Lackey has found himself in, he might find some value in trying to control the running game: The Astros stole five bases while he was in the game Monday, and the Royals were running at will early Sunday, stealing three bases in the first two innings. One of the stolen bases led directly to a run. In a one-run game, that can be a difference-maker.

This has been a season-long issue. Teams have stolen more than twice as many bases (28) when Lackey is pitching than any other Sox pitcher.

"It's something to work on to get better," manager John Farrell said. "He recognizes that. There are certain things that are more comfortable to other pitchers. We've got to vary his hold times, so he's not so predictable. But the execution of strikes is the priority."

Lackey didn't seem too concerned, though he may have been thrown off by a reporter (me) asking him about varying his times to the plate instead of hold times, which is an entirely different matter.

"I vary my times to the plate," he said.

"I mean, yeah, in low-scoring games I guess (the running game) can be a factor."