MINNEAPOLIS – In his previous outing against the Twins at Fenway Park on May 9, John Lackey’s own error led to four unearned runs, when his throw to second base attempting to start a double play sailed into center field. Lackey had limited worry of base runners Sunday afternoon. He was perfect through the first four innings, as the Red Sox won, 5-1, completing the three-game sweep at Target Field.
Lackey earned the win, his first since April 28, improving to 2-4, lowering his ERA from 4.05 to 3.31.
“The record doesn’t indicate or reflect how well he’s pitched,” manager John Farrell said. “Now, some of that was self-induced two starts ago. But I think he’s shown better power, better quality of repertoire, than maybe the win-loss and ERA might otherwise indicate. I think most importantly, though, he continues to come out of every start feeling great, physically. His work in between has been consistent, and there’s no reason that type of performance today or in recent starts shouldn’t continue.”
Lackey went six innings, giving up one unearned run on one hit with no walks and five strikeouts, as he threw 50 of his 84 pitches for strikes. When rain delayed the game for three hours in the middle of the seventh inning, Lackey’s day was done.
Lackey retired the first 12 batters on 51 pitches before Trevor Plouffe broke up his perfect game, leading off the fifth with a double. Oswaldo Arcia, the next batter, reached when Lackey hit him with a pitch. Plouffe scored on Pedro Ciriaco’s throwing error. The run was unearned and the only run the Twins would get off Lackey.
“I thought John was very crisp, he was powerful,” Farrell said. “I thought he threw some good cutters, particularly to their left-handed hitters to get down underneath their swing planes. And consistent with the stuff he had two starts ago when he faced Minnesota, and really the stuff that he had in Tampa [in his last start on May 14]. He cruised through the first three, four innings with no men on base. Even when he did get in the one inning where they one guy gets on base, I thought he made a quality pitch to what seemed at the time a tailor-made double play, but limited to the damage to really zero. And overall just a solid performance for him.”
Lackey was satisfied with his outing.
“I felt pretty good. Feels like it was a long time ago. I'm a little sore already,” he said, a tongue-in-cheek nod to the three-hour rain delay, and 3-hour, 15-minute time of game. “But, yeah, felt pretty good. They played great defense behind me. I had a couple balls hit pretty hard and we had guys in the right spots. It was nice.”
“He did great, really,” catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “He had a real good cutter working today. I think he made [Joe] Mauer strike out on the cutter down and in, which is nasty. It’s hard to make [Mauer] look bad, but it was a good pitch. But he just went out there and tried to get ahead of the hitters was the main thing. We got to get ahead of these guys. They’re a free-swinging team. We know they can hit the fastball, so you got to mix your pitches.”
Lackey needed just 51 pitches to get through the first four innings without allowing a base runner.
“Pretty smooth,” he said of those innings. “I was locating my fastball pretty well. I was getting ahead in the counts, probably the biggest thing for me. I was able to dictate some at-bats ahead in the count.”
Lackey has registered a 1.58 ERA in his last three starts, giving up just three earned runs (seven total) in 17 1/3 innings. It was the first start this season he did not give up an earned run. Still, it wasn’t the best he has felt in recent outings.
“No, honestly, I’ve felt better the last couple of times,” said Lackey, who is still progressing from Tommy John surgery after the 2011 season. “I warmed up terrible today. And then I found some location when the game started.”
Saltalamacchia was behind the plate for Lackey today, the third different catcher for the right-hander in as many starts, with David Ross and Ryan Lavarnway catching the other two, respectively.
“It might not have been his best, but he definitely did a great job of attacking the hitters, going after them, never giving in,” Saltalamacchia said. “Had a big inning, runners at first and second [in the fifth]. He was able to get out of it with only one run. He did a great job.”