Lackey has chance to cap off magical season at Fenway

Lackey has chance to cap off magical season at Fenway
October 29, 2013, 8:15 pm
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(USA Today Sports)

BOSTON – John Lackey has a chance to do something no Red Sox pitcher has done since Carl Mays in 1918. Be the winning pitcher in a World Series-clinching game at Fenway Park.
 
That bit of Boston history is not lost on the big right-hander from Texas.
 
“It would be awesome,” Lackey said Tuesday afternoon before the Sox’ workout at Fenway Park. “As far as personally, I'm just thinking about executing pitches and trying to win a game.  And hopefully we get to that point.”
 
It would not be the first clinching game Lackey has won. As a 24-year-old rookie in 2002 he earned the win in Game 7 when the Angels beat the Giants.
 
“That was a long time ago, man,” he said. “I don't think that's going to play much into tomorrow. I think most of those guys in that game aren't even playing anymore.
“I was a rookie. We had a pretty veteran team. I was just trying to ‑‑ our bullpen was probably our main strength on that team. I was trying to get five or six innings and turn it over to those guys. My job was just basically not to screw it up.”
 
It’s been a long road for Lackey to get to this point. After several difficult seasons, on the field and off, including a missed 2012 after Tommy John surgery, Lackey has a chance to secure his place forever in Red Sox lore.
 
“The protocol for the rehab of Tommy John is pretty straight forward,” said manager John Farrell. “And that doesn't mean it's a guarantee to get back to previous levels of performance, but where John deserves all the credit is the way he reshaped his body, what he put himself through physically last offseason, and seeing him and meeting with him early last December it was clear that the reshaping of what he went through, coming away from that meeting I felt like he had as much opportunity to impact this team as anyone.

“And it's played out. He's, I think, shown a different side of him this year. And it had to start with his performance on the mound, which has been very consistent. But the way which he's interacted with people around here, maybe just the perception has changed with John, and rightfully so, it all goes back to John.”
 
Lackey, who has taken one of the Sox’ two losses in the Series, is hoping to follow what Jon Lester has been able to do.
 
“Jonny has been awesome, man,” Lackey said. “He's been fun to watch. Just as a teammate and as a good buddy, really happy for the way he's performed this postseason. We've needed it, obviously, because the margin for error has been pretty tight in these games, and there hasn't been a lot of running away, and he's been killing it.”
 
Lackey pitched one inning of relief in Game 4. It was his first time working out of the pen in the postseason since the 2002 World Series, and first time overall since 2004, when he made one relief appearance. In the eighth inning of Game 4 with the Sox leading by two runs, he threw 17 pitches, nine for strikes. He faced four batters, with Yadier Molina reaching on a throwing error by Xander Bogaerts.
 
“The intensity obviously is a little bit different getting in the game than throwing out of the bullpen,” Lackey said. “But the number of pitches I threw shouldn't be much of a factor.”
 
As he was in Game 2, Lackey will be opposed by Michael Wacha. Lackey, who turned 35 on Oct. 23, can relate to what the Cardinals 22-year-old rookie is likely going through.
 
“Probably similar to the way I was feeling,” Lackey said. “I think I was 23 or whatever that year. I can't speak to ‑‑ I don't know what kind of guy he is. But personally I was more excited about it than anything else as far as nerves, that sort of thing.”
 
As they have been for much of this season, the Sox are confident heading into Game 6 at Fenway, leading the Cardinals three games to two.
 
“We're definitely confident,” Lackey said. “We played here pretty good this season. And the place, the atmosphere is going to be great. The fans are going to be crazy. But you've still got to focus on the task at hand and executing. And just still playing baseball. We're still one win away.”
 
And what a Game 6 win would mean, capping off his comeback year?
 
“Obviously I'm not even ready to think about that yet,” he said. “I'm focused on tomorrow.  Focused on trying to make some pitches, trying to help this team win. There will be time for that later on.”