Lackey takes lack of run support in stride

Lackey takes lack of run support in stride
September 2, 2013, 7:00 pm
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BOSTON –  If John Lackey were gnashing his teeth and pulling out his hair over the lack of run support he has received this season, it would certainly be understandable.  Instead the right-hander takes it in stride.
 
“Still pretty much pitching the same,” Lackey said after Monday’s 3-0 loss to the Tigers at Fenway Park. “I know I got to go out and put up as many zeros as I can, for sure.”
 
Lackey, who pitched into the eighth inning, put up zeroes in six of his frames, giving up two runs in the seventh and another in the eighth, charged to him after he left when Matt Thornton allowed one of two inherited runners to score. Unfortunately for Lackey, the Red Sox offense posted zeroes in all nine innings, for the team’s 11th shutout loss of the season.
 
After the game, Lackey – who gave up seven hits and a walk with five strikeouts -- wore a grey t-shirt with ‘Houdini’ written in black letters across the front.  Somewhat appropriate since the Red Sox’ usually dominant offense  seems to disappear when the right-hander is on the mound.
 
The Sox entered the game second in the majors with 698 runs scored, with an average of 5.06 runs per game – second only to Detroit’s 699 and 5.10, while leading the majors in doubles with 307, extra-base hits (474),  and walks (499). They were second only to Detroit with 670 RBI, a .274 average, .347 on-base percentage, .784 OPS, 1317 hits, 2,098 total bases, and 1,874 times on base.
 
Most of that vanished on Monday. The Sox had six hits in the game, but three of them belonged to Daniel Nava. They went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position, leaving eight runners on base.
 
For the seventh time in his 25 starts this season, Lackey was given no run support while he was in the game. Despite posting his team-leading 18th quality start, Lackey took the loss, falling to 8-12 with a 3.22 ERA, the lowest ERA of his career in a season after 25 starts.  He has lost 10 of those 18 quality starts.
 
“You’re puling for your pitcher obviously and you want your pitcher to go out there and compete,” Nava said. “I know that from his perspective it’s got to be frustrating just because if we were on offense and we got a pitcher consistently giving up six or seven runs and we’re trying to do the opposite of what’s going on for him, you want him to go out there and feel like we’ve got his back. So from that perspective I’m frustrated that we’re not able to put up more runs for him.”
 
Lackey entered the game with a team-low 3.95 runs of support. That mark fell to 3.77 as the Red Sox were  shutout for the 11th time this season. In eight of his 12 losses, Lackey has allowed three or fewer earned runs, the most such losses by any major league starter this season. He has given up one or no walk in 18 of his 25 starts, 72 percent, the most such starts by a Sox pitcher since Josh Becket did so  in 18 starts in 2008.
 
It was the third straight start in which Lackey has pitched into the eighth inning.  In those three games he is 0-2, despite pitching a total of 22 2/3 innings and giving up eight earned runs, for a combined 3.17 ERA.
 
"It's real frustrating,” said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “That's all you can ask from the pitchers is to give us a chance. At the same time, we need to do the same thing: get some run support and help a guy out who's been great for us.
 
"He gets frustrated when we don't win. That's the biggest thing. He knows his job is to give us the best chance possible to win. He's been doing that his whole career. To have that kind of stretch like he's had, where he's keeping us in the ballgame, and we just can't get any runs. At the end of the day, personal goals to him are out the window. He wants to win. Period.''
 
The rest of Lackey’s t-shirt was a farcical advertisement to watch the famous but long-dead escape artist perform keg stands in a straitjacket.  Perhaps the lack of support from his offense might give him some ideas along those lines. But, it’s just part of the game, Lackey said.
 
“You can’t worry about that,” he said. “I got to get a good lineup out as many times as I can.
 
“When it’s a 0-0 game everything’s magnified, everything gets amped up. I was able to make some pitches to get out of those situations, couple guys made some nice plays for me. Just one of those days.”
 
He dealt with a similar lack of runs while he was with the Angels.
 
“In Anaheim we didn’t score a whole lot of runs a few years,” he said. “But I don’t know exactly.  I haven’t looked that close at it.”
 
Instead, he’s trying to see the positives.
 
“I’m trying,” he said. “I’m trying hard.”
 
Manager John Farrell is also trying to find the silver lining.
 
“He’s a competitor.  I would expect him to be frustrated,” Farrell said. “But given that it’s now six times that he’s been on the short end of a shutout, I think there’s a lot of runs waiting to come his way.”
 
He is not worried about the lack of support taking Lackey out of his game plan.
 
“No, John’s a pro,” Farrell said. “He understands the game. I’m sure there’s been other times in his career when  he might be on the end of no run support compared to the other guys in the rotation, but this isn’t going to affect his work or cause him to try to do any more. I think that’s evident by the entire body of work over the course of the year. Even when there’s been a few starts when we’ve ben shutdown.”
 
As he left the field, with one out and two runners on base in the eighth, Lackey was given a warm ovation by the Fenway crowd. An acknowledgment of his efforts, despite the score. It was lost on him, though.
 
“I was a little too angry to hear anything at that point,” he said.