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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Boston bats pick up slack for Lackey

It did not quite match the theatrics of Game 5 of the 2009 American League Championship Series, when John Lackey fumed at the sight of then-manager Mike Scioscia pulling him in the middle of a masterful beginning against the Yankees. Still, Lackey was none too delighted when his current manager Terry Francona bounded out of the dugout on Saturday afternoon and gave him the hook with 2 outs in the 6th.

The competitive fire was also a sign that Lackey had righted himself quite nicely from an outing that endangered to go bad very rapidly. And it was only fitting, since Lackey's quest in this 2nd half of the season is to pull himself up off the mat from a highly unsatisfying begin.

Behind the perseverance of Lackey and the explosiveness of the offense, the Red Sox rallied back for a 9-5 victory against James Shields and the Rays.

"It was definitely decent to shut it down for a few days, certainly," told Lackey. "What happened [in the first half] happened. You can not do anything about that. I am going to go out there and compete my butt off and try to win every time I go out at that place."

After giving up 3 runs in the first, Lackey gritted his teeth for the rest of his outing and got the job done, giving the big bats plenty of time to reverse the impulse.

The righty went 5 2/3 innings, allowing 10 hits and four runs, three of which were brought in. He walked one and struck out seven to improve to 7-8 on the season.

It was Lackey's 2nd straight triumph. In past years, that wouldn't be news. But this season, any positive growth is something that Lackey will try to bottle.

"We would love for him to get hot," stated Francona. "That would be one of the best things that could ever happen to us."

After retiring the 1st two batters in the 6th, Lackey got a grounder to first out of Johnny Damon, but it wound up going off the glove of the normally sure-handed Adrian Gonzalez for an error. Lackey hit Ben Zobrist, and Francona trudged out of the dugout. Lackey told something to the effect of, "Are you kidding me?" and seemed to let out a choice word or two.

But lefty Randy Williams, boosted from Triple-A Pawtucket before the game, got Casey Kotchman on a grounder to second.

In typical Francona fashion, he was not put off by a fierce challenger being distressed about coming out of a game.

"Oh, I do not pay much attention," Francona told. "That's why I always make the move before I go out there. There can not be a treatment. I need to do what I am going to do so I always to it before I go out there."

And if Lackey's engine had been running on hot when Francona visited him on the mound, he had a much more even look at things after the game.

"Yeah, I felt like I could have got that guy out," told Lackey. "Looking back on it, we had a two-run lead. That's Tito probably protecting me a little bit, too. I can respect that. You can't do much about it. I already had a visit [from pitching coach Curt Young]. It's not like you can argue your way out of that one."

While Lackey held up his end of the bargain from the mound, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia continued their recent power tears by belting solo shots -- No. 13 on the season for both members of Boston's 1-2 punch.

Josh Reddick, who has thrived during Carl Crawford's stint on the disabled list, hit a mammoth two-run blast with his father -- among other family members -- sitting in the stands.

"That was a big accomplishment," Reddick said. "I had my dad here, my brother, a couple of his buddies and my old high school baseball coach. For them to actually see one live was a big feeling. I had to give them a little love after I hit it."

Lackey had some misfortune on his side to start this one. Damon led off the Rays' first with a grounder to short that Marco Scutaro made a throwing error on.

"Damon hit the ball, it hit my finger and I couldn't find the grip on the ball," Scutaro said. "I just kind of threw it and after that my finger was a little numb. I couldn't feel it. I hate when that happens."

Zobrist followed with a single up the middle and Damon raced to third. Kotchman spun a grounder toward the middle that Scutaro dove for, but couldn't make a play cleanly on, allowing Damon to score. Matt Joyce belted a single just under the glove of Gonzalez, bringing home Zobrist. B.J. Upton blooped an RBI single to left and Shields, an All-Star, had a 3-0 lead.

Nobody felt worse about the inning than Scutaro.

"It was frustrating," Scutaro said. "I don't mind making errors, but when they cost runs, that really [bothers] me."

It turns out the deficit was just a temporary nuisance.

Shields didn't pitch like an All-Star, and the Red Sox came storming back. Reddick unloaded for his two-run homer to right in the second, and it was a one-run game.

"These guys did a great job of getting up 3-0 out of the gates," Shields said. "My job was to shut them down and I didn't do my job. And the very next inning I gave up the two-run homer. I gave up a bad pitch to Reddick there, but when our team scores three runs early in the game, I've got to shut them down right there."

In the third, Shields opened with a walk to Gonzalez and then gave up a single to left to Kevin Youkilis. David Ortiz didn't let that opportunity go by, walloping a two-run double into the gap in right-center field to give the Sox their first lead. J.D. Drew followed with an RBI double down the line in right to give Lackey a 5-3 edge.

Ellsbury and Pedroia opened it up with their homers in the fourth and seventh. For Pedroia, it was his third homer in as many games, marking the first time he's gone deep in three straight games in one season.

Pedroia has seven homers in his last 14 games.

"I kind of did that last year at the beginning of the year, and then I didn't hit any for like 300 at-bats," Pedroia said. "When they come, I guess you just have to ride it out. I'm not a home run hitter by any means. When I hit them, it's nice, it's extra, but I'm not trying to hit home runs at all. It might look like it, but trust me, I'm not at all."

Boston bats pick up slack for Lackey Rating: 4.5 Diposkan Oleh: Admin


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