BOSTON -- When John Lackey saw manager John Farrell walk out of the dugout, he was surprised. It was the seventh inning, and he had thrown 82 pitches. He hadn't been taken out before his ninetieth pitch since mid-May.
Lackey prides himself on his ability to throw deep into games, and if he was going to be pulled, he thought he might have a chance to make his case to Farrell to remain in the game.
"That was the first trip," Lackey said of Farrell's visit to the mound. "It's not too late."
If there was an argument made, it was to no avail. After allowing back-to-back singles in the inning to New York's eighth and ninth hitters Brendan Ryan and Chris Stewart, Lackey was relieved by Craig Breslow.
Breslow eventually allowed both inherited runners to score on a double by Robinson Cano. The inning ended with the score tied, 4-4, meaning Lackey would not factor into the decision. He pitched 6.1 innings, allowed seven hits and four earned runs in Boston's 8-4 win over New York.
"John pitched outstanding," Farrell said. "To put him in a position where he's got two runners on base, I thought he had done his job. I'm sure he's going to disagree with that, which I respect, but I felt like that was the move at the time."
Lackey had thrown at least 90 pitches in each of his 20 starts since May 19, when he pitched six innings in a win over the Twins. His 82 pitches on Friday were his third least in a start this season. He threw 77 and 81 pitches in his first two starts of the year, respectively.
Though the playoffs are in sight, Lackey found no silver lining in his abbreviated outing. He was not looking to save his arm for October.
"The guy behind me that came in needs a little break too," Lackey said of Breslow, who has thrown 54.2 innings this season. "I was hoping to stay out there a while and give some of those guys in the bullpen a little break."
Before his perceived quick hook, Lackey was strong. He struck out Alex Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano with high fastballs in the first inning and was then spotted a four-run lead.
Lackey worked fast and pounded the strikezone with fastballs after getting the early run support that has so often not been there for him this season. He had a seven-pitch second inning, and faced four batters in the third, allowing a solo homer to Ryan.
An error by Dustin Pedroia extended his fourth inning, though Lackey escaped without allowing a run. He retired the side in order in the fifth, and all the while took minimal time in between pitches.
"I try to do that quite a bit anyway," Lackey said of his pace on the mound. "I like to try to work quick. I think it keeps fielders on their toes. More than anything, you don't wanna walk anybody. You don't wanna give them anything. You wanna make 'em earn it."
Lackey ran into some trouble in the sixth when Cano knocked a double -- one of his three two-baggers on the night -- which was followed by a Soriano single and a Lyle Overbay sac fly.
Then in the seventh, after three batters, Lackey gave Farrell a long look as he made his way out to the mound. The 6-foot-6 righty reluctantly gave up the ball and sauntered back to the dugout amidst a standing ovation from the crowd at Fenway.
"John never wants to come out of a game," Farrell said. "I respect that about him. He's an ultimate competitor."