Lackey unfazed by disappointing loss

July, 6, 2014
7/06/14
12:57
AM ET
BOSTON -- Red Sox pitcher John Lackey apparently holds grudges.

The veteran right-hander was shaking his head after Boston's 7-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles in the nightcap of Saturday's day-night doubleheader at Fenway Park. He felt he had thrown the ball the best he has all season, but he still allowed five runs on 10 hits.

[+] EnlargeJohn Lackey
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesJohn Lackey struck out 11 but took the loss after giving up five earned runs on 10 hits and a walk over 5 1/3 innings Saturday night.
But it wasn't the fact that his record dropped to 9-6 with a 3.84 ERA that had his attention. It was the 5-for-5 performance by the Orioles' Nelson Cruz that had Lackey all fired up.

Cruz had a monster night at the plate. He had three hits off Lackey, including a home run, single and double. In Cruz's last at-bat of the game in the top of the eighth inning, he drilled a ball to deep right field for a double. He attempted to stretch it into a triple for the cycle, but he was thrown out 9-6-5.

After the game, Lackey wasn't about to tip his cap to Cruz for his performance.

In the past, Lackey and other Red Sox pitchers have expressed their displeasure with players suspended for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy. This past August, while playing for the Texas Rangers, Cruz was suspended 50 games for violating MLB's drug agreement related to the Biogenesis investigation.

Cruz, who signed a one-year deal worth $8 million with the Orioles, is hitting .286 with 27 homers and 70 RBIs this season. His five hits Saturday were a career-high.

"I'm not going to comment on him," Lackey said when asked about Cruz's prowess at the plate. "I've got nothing to say about him. There are some things I'd like to say, but I'm not going to. You guys forget pretty conveniently about stuff."

This past season, Lackey and fellow starter Jon Lester were outspoken about the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez being allowed to play during his appeal process after he became one of 13 players suspended. He was the only player to appeal and was allowed to play.

Even Red Sox manager John Farrell was brief with his comments when asked about Cruz's performance on Saturday.

"Swinging a hot bat. Looks strong," Farrell said.

As for his 18th start of the season, Lackey, who never lacks for confidence, felt he was locating all of his pitches. The few mistakes he did make, the Orioles took advantage of.

"Honestly, that's about as good of stuff as I've had all year," he said. "I'm still trying to figure out what happened. I don't know how I gave up five runs. But you've got to give their guys a lot of credit. It's a tough lineup. I made a couple of mistakes, and they hit a couple of balls out of the park."

"They've got a good lineup," he went on. "It seemed like every time they touched the ball it was a hit. They were finding holes. It was basically a strikeout or a hit."

Overall, he worked 5 1/3 innings and tossed a season-high 120 pitches (82 for strikes). His 11 strikeouts also matched a season high. He'll make one more start before the All-Star break, and he's pleased with the way he's been throwing the ball, especially in Saturday's loss.

"We've got a long way to go, man," Lackey said. "I felt great tonight. I'll take my chances with that stuff most nights, for sure."

In the top of the second inning, it appeared the Red Sox pulled off a strike-him-out, throw-him-out double play, but the call was overturned in Baltimore's favor. J.J. Hardy led off the inning by reaching on an error by Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli. With Manny Machado batting, he worked the count full when Hardy took off for second. Machado swung and missed, and while catcher A.J. Pierzynski made the throw to second, Machado's bat hit him on the backswing. Plate umpire Mike DiMuro signaled batter's interference right away, but the umpiring crew reviewed the call after Orioles manager Buck Showalter came out to argue. After a five-minute delay, Hardy returned to first base after originally being called out attempting to steal.

Despite the delay, Lackey retired the next two batters, but after the game he admitted it was a bit uncomfortable standing on the mound for that long before the call was made.

"It's not ideal when you're 35 to stand around for five minutes," he said. "It's probably something they can speed up a little bit, but what are you going to do? I tried to throw a few pitches. I think it's something that'll get tweaked as there's more experience with the system. Overall, they're getting the calls right, so I guess it's a good thing."

During the matinee game of the twin bill, Cruz went 0-for-4 with a strikeout as Lester dominated the Orioles in his eight-inning performance before Boston provided a 3-2 walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth. Cruz must've eaten his Wheaties between games because he went off in the nightcap.

"I think overall he had very good stuff," Farrell said of Lackey. "A lot of swing-and-miss to his fastball and his breaking ball alike. High number of strikeouts runs his pitch count up there. Because he does throw so many strikes, he's around the plate. Over the past three or four starts, the long ball has been mixed in a little bit more. But he goes into the sixth inning with the lead, and then they bunch some hits together, and unfortunately we come away on the down side."

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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