Lackey had just turned 24 when he won Game 7 for the Angels in 2002, which Rays manager Joe Maddon noted indirectly Friday when he credited Lackey for helping to pay for his daughter’s wedding (Maddon was on the Angels’ coaching staff). On Saturday, he will be 18 days shy of his 35th birthday. The rest between starts can’t hurt, he said Friday before Boston's 12-2 Game 1 win.
“I got a little break here the last couple of weeks because we were in a pretty good position as far as the playoffs,’’ Lackey said. “John [Farrell] kind of gave me a little breather. I think that definitely could help me as far as rejuvenating me a little bit, I guess.
“For the most part, I felt pretty good all season. Got to give a lot to the doctors and trainers, a lot of credit for that, a lot of help in the offseason. And during last season with the rehab, for sure.’’
Lackey, who underwent Tommy John reconstructive surgery in November, 2011, and missed the 2012 season, made 29 starts and pitched 189 1/3 innings this season. As late as Aug. 23, his fastball was still topping out at 95 miles an hour, and averaging 93. In his last start, he was topping out at 92 and averaging 91.
Statistically, September was Lackey’s worst month. He posted a 4.98 ERA in five starts, which included his poorest outing of the season, one in which he gave up 7 runs on 8 hits and 3 walks in 5 2/3 innings against the Yankees in New York. Twelve days later, he pitched a complete-game two-hitter to beat the Orioles in Fenway Park.
His favorable home splits made him an obvious candidate to pitch Game 2. He was 6-3 with a 2.47 ERA in 18 starts at Fenway, where opposing batters posted a slash line of .232/.266/.375/.641. On the road, he was 4-10 with a 4.48 ERA, and opposing hitters posted a slash line of .260/.312/.447/.758 against him.
Lackey didn’t offer much in the way of insight as to why he fares better at Fenway, though manager John Farrell has said that Lackey is much more effective to his glove side -- pitching in to lefties, away from righties -- and thus takes advantage of Fenway’s large right field.
“I'm not really sure, honestly,’’ he said. “I don't know what that is, because really this place probably isn't one of the best places to pitch. It should be the other way around.
“We've got a great fan base, and it's a fun place, good atmosphere, so who knows? If I knew, I'd pitch better on the road, I guess.’’
During Lackey’s seven seasons with the Angels, Fenway hardly ranked as a favorite place. He made nine starts here, pitched fewer than six innings in four of those starts, and overall was 2-5 with a 5.75 ERA.
This will be his first postseason start as a member of the Sox. His last postseason start came in Game 1 of the 2009 AL division series, when he pitched seven scoreless innings against the Red Sox in what turned into a three-game sweep for the Angels.
“I'm excited about it,’’ he said. “It's been a few years since I've been in the postseason, but this is why you play the game. This time of year is what we're all here for.’’