Lackey has rare implosion in fourth

June, 24, 2014
6/24/14
2:10
AM ET


SEATTLE -- Safeco Field provided anything but a safe harbor for the Red Sox Monday night. John Lackey’s composure disintegrated. Brock Holt was stripped of his cape in right field. Chris Capuano took a bullet for the team amid speculation his days may be numbered. And everybody else only had King Felix Hernandez to contend with.

Add it all up, and the Sox matched their most one-sided loss of the season in falling to the Seattle Mariners, who have been a weaker-hitting bunch than the Sox this season but matched their biggest run total of 2014 before a crowd of 26,860 in their gorgeous ballpark.

The result: The Sox lost, 12-3, to the Mariners. They are now 1-4 on this trip, 9-13 in June, 15-23 on the road. They are 7 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays in the AL East, and while they began the night just five games back for a wild-card spot, there are 11 teams ahead of them, including the three division leaders.

The dirty details: Lackey had allowed a total of eight earned runs in his last half-dozen starts. That included last Wednesday’s nine scoreless innings against the Twins, which earned Lackey nothing but a no-decision.

Aware that against King Felix he had little margin for error, Lackey’s frustration spilled over in the fourth inning, when the Mariners knocked him out with a six-run rally, erasing a 2-1 Sox lead fashioned on David Ortiz’s RBI single in the first and Mike Napoli’s home run in the fourth.

“John Lackey has been a model of consistency for the last year and a half,’’ manager John Farrell said. “Trying to get that third out turned into a six-run inning. Against Felix Hernandez, that’s a tall order.’’

Lackey’s head nearly exploded in the inning, especially after a 13-pitch at-bat against Dustin Ackley had a chance to turn into an inning-ending double-play grounder to first baseman Napoli, except that Lackey did not cover first to take Stephen Drew’s return throw. Trainer Rick Jameyson and manager John Farrell came to the mound, suggesting there was a physical reason for Lackey’s lapse, but the pitcher waved them away and remained in the game.

“When he crouched down, we wanted to make sure he was OK,’’ Farrell said. “He stated he was perfectly fine.

[+] EnlargeJohn Lackey
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonJohn Lackey, who gave up six runs in the Seattle fourth inning, gets the ball back from A.J. Pierzynski.
“I think in the midst of a 13-pitch at-bat he made a quality pitch for a ground ball. Whether he anticipated the ball going through the hole -- Napoli made a very good backhanded play -- it was just a lapse there that didn’t allow John to receive the throw back.’’

Lackey showed little inclination to discuss the play, offering a bemused smile when asked about it.

“Um, yeah, I mean, yeah, I could have gone over there,’’ Lackey said. “I’m not going to touch that.’’

More calamity quickly ensued. Lackey bounced a breaking ball to light-hitting Brad Miller at the plate, catcher A.J. Pierzynski unable to keep the wild pitch from caroming wildly away as the third run of the inning scored. Lackey then walked Miller, Willie Bloomquist singled to load the bases, and Endy Chavez cleared them with a line drive over the head of Holt, whose bad route to the ball exposed his inexperience at a position he has previously fielded with aplomb. That was all for Lackey after just 3 2/3 innings, his shortest outing of the season.

Sacrificial Capuano: The veteran left-hander, who has pitched just twice since June 6, was cast in the role of bullpen saver, which went OK for two innings (a yield of a run on two hits) but came apart in the seventh, when the Mariners batted around for the second time in the game while adding another four runs.

Capuano, who had failed to retire a batter in his first two appearances this month and had pitched a total of 1 2/3 innings in his last two appearances, was charged with five runs in 2 1/3 innings. He has a 22.50 ERA (10 ER in 4 IP) this month, which could lead the Sox to designate him for assignment while trying to make room on the roster for Clay Buchholz. No one in an official capacity has suggested as much publicly.

Seattle slugging: Logan Morrison, who had three career home runs against the Red Sox in 19 at-bats while with the Marlins, connected twice Monday night, a solo shot off Lackey in the second, a two-run homer off Capuano in the seventh.

Morrison, who went 4-for-4 Monday night, had three home runs against the Sox in 19 at-bats while a member of the Marlins. The Mariners had scored seven or more runs in Safeco only twice this season before Monday night, in back-to-back games on May 11-12.

King holds court: Hernandez gave up a first-inning run for only the third time this season, and the home run to Napoli was the first allowed by the right-hander in a dozen starts. But after Boston’s three-hit first, Hernandez allowed just singles by Daniel Nava and Dustin Pedroia in his seven innings of work, walking none and striking out six. His ERA actually rose, from 2.22 to 2.24, but he is now 9-2, 5-1 with a 1.48 ERA in his last six starts.

Lackey dropped to 8-5, his ERA rising to 3.45 from 2.96. “Not going to panic from one inning,’’ he said. “I think we’ll be all right.’’

Sox slumping: Drew is now hitless in his last 20 at-bats after striking out three times and grounding out to short. Xander Bogaerts is 5-for-52 since June 7, a batting average of .096 in that span. He went 0-for-4 Monday night with two strikeouts, and is 1-for-17 on this trip. Pierzynski, who had a sacrifice fly in the ninth, is 1-for-14 on the trip.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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