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Takeaways: Sox finally get in the swing

3/17/2014

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Takeaways from the Fort, where a potentially severe thunderstorm got stalled, the Red Sox created their own storm with an onslaught of unexpected hitting and John Lackey was the big beneficiary.

The result: The Red Sox hammered 12 hits -- including three homers -- in an 10-5 victory over the Cardinals before 9,908 at JetBlue Park to improve to 8-10-1. Dustin Pedroia was 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs. In the third, Pedroia launched a 1-1 pitch from Cardinals starter Shelby Miller over the Monster for a two-run homer that tied the game 2-2. (That came just minutes after we posted Christina Kahrl’s prediction that Pedroia would gain 50 points in slugging percentage this season because of a healthy thumb.) Mike Napoli tagged a monstrous three-run homer off Tyler Lyons in the fifth and Ryan Lavarnway added another one in the eighth. Grady Sizemore went 3-for-4 and made two spectacular catches in center field. The Red Sox came into the game ranked dead last among American League teams in spring batting average (.231), on-base percentage (.298), runs (65), hits (136), triples (2) and RBIs (64).

Happy enough: John Lackey went five innings, giving up six hits and five runs while walking two and striking out three. He threw strikes on 39 of 60 pitches. Before Monday, he had pitched just once -- giving up three runs and four hits in 2 2/3 innings.

“I got the pitch count I wanted to (60, 39 for strikes), got some things accomplished in the bullpen before the game, threw my cutter for the first time today, so I came out happy,” Lackey said. “Keep moving.”

Lackey said his first cutter was “terrible” and resulted in a single by Tony Cruz in the third to start a two-run inning.

“It got a little better,” he said. “I had a strikeout on it one time. Yeah, it’s a work in progress, for sure. It was the first day I even threw it off the mound. We’ll keep working on it.”

He said he has delayed work on the cutter because he likes to focus on four-seam fastballs in his first few outings.

“I like to try to build up arm strength first, then start spinning stuff and throwing off-speed stuff after that,” he said. “I got a couple more times out there and a couple more bullpen sessions to work on it.”

With two more starts left in spring training for most pitchers, the rotation is taking shape.

“We’ve got a pretty good rotation, for sure, but we’ve still got to go out there and perform,” he said. “Four of us have been around for a while and have done some things. We need Buch [Clay Buchholz] to make it through a full year, because he can do some special stuff. Doobie [Felix Doubront], I think everybody’s excited the way he came into camp and the look in his eyes, and the way he’s been working. We’ll get ready and see what happens.”

JBJ report: Jackie Bradley Jr. had the day off. He’s hitting .182 with a .270 OBP and is tied with David Ortiz for the team lead in strikeouts (nine).

X file: Xander Bogaerts, starting at shortstop and batting seventh, was 1-for-2 with a run-scoring double in the fifth and a walk in the fourth.

The two-hole: Farrell on batting Shane Victorino second: “He’s got an ability in the two-hole to play the game a little more. If there’s a guy on base, he’s got the ability to bunt. He’s already seen some pitches by the guy ahead of him. You can’t deny the track record of what spots in the lineup show and the performance of getting on base, particularly. And it gives us another guy with speed at the top. The fact that we had Pedey [Dustin Pedroia] and David [Ortiz] in the three/four hole for pretty much the majority of last year, that’s not a new thing for them either.”

His lucky day: Will Middlebrooks didn’t even play, but still saw his fielding percentage go up. A scoring change removed his first-inning error in Sunday’s game, giving James Loney five RBIs instead of four.

Green-out: The Red Sox celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by wearing green jerseys and caps to go along with green bases. The tradition of jerseys and caps is believed to go back to their Winter Haven training days in 1990, when Roger Clemens purchased green caps and stirrups for the team. Outfielder Jimmy Walsh is the only Irish-born player in team history. He batted .257 in 70 games from 1916-17. Before that, Patsy Donovan managed the club to a 159-147-5 record from 1910-11.

The dot, dot, dots: Doubront starts on Tuesday in Tampa against the Yankees, backed by Brandon Workman, Dalier Hinojosa, Tommy Layne and Rich Hill. Michael Pineda starts for the Yankees. ... Jake Peavy starts on Wednesday at JetBlue Park against the Pirates, backed by Andrew Miller, Burke Badenhop, Francisco Cordero, Brayan Villareal and Jose Mijares. ... Cardinals third baseman Daniel Descalso, who started and hit third, went to St. Francis High School in Mountain View, Calif., also Daniel Nava’s alma mater. Nava was three years ahead of Descalso. At last year’s World Series, St. Francis was the only high school in America to be represented by two players. ... The Red Sox visit St. Louis Aug. 5-7 in interleague play. It will be their first regular-season road series against the Cardinals since 2005.