Red Sox undone by Lackey's error

Red Sox undone by Lackey's error
May 10, 2013, 1:00 am
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BOSTON -- Given the pitching struggles the Red Sox have faced over the last week, told that they would get seven innings out of John Lackey giving up just one earned run in the series finale against the Twins Thursday night, they likely would gladly have accepted that from the right-hander who continues to make his way back from Tommy John surgery.

The outing was Lackey’s longest since he went seven innings against the Yankees on Aug. 30, 2011, when he gave up five runs in that game, taking the loss.

On Thursday night against the Twins, he also gave up five runs – one earned – taking the loss, as the Sox fell, 5-3.

The Sox’ undoing in the game was Lackey’s own.

Lackey, who gave up six hits, with a walk and eight strikeouts, appeared in control early in his outing, retiring the first eight batters he faced, before a single to Pedro Florimon in the third. He struck out the side on 11 pitches in the first inning. After two innings, he had thrown just 21 pitches, 17 strikes, with four strikeouts. Lackey kept the Twins in check through five innings, giving up just one run, as the Sox led, 2-1.

But he unraveled quickly in the sixth. His own error led to four unearned runs in the inning, and the Sox’ third straight loss, the sixth in their last seven games.

With one out in the fifth, and the Sox leading 2-0, Lackey gave up a triple to Oswaldo Arcia and an RBI double to Aaron Hicks, cutting the lead in half.

After a lead-off double to Joe Mauer in the sixth, Josh Willingham flied out before Lackey issued his first walk of the game to Justin Morneau. But Trevor Plouffe’s comebacker appeared tailor-made for a double play to get Lackey out of the jam. Instead, Lackey sailed his throw, intended for Dustin Pedroia, into center field, allowing Mauer to score and sending Morneau to third.

Ryan Doumit’s sacrifice fly scored Morneau, as catcher David Ross missed the swipe tag on a strong throw from right fielder Shane Victorino. And on the next pitch, Oswaldo Arcia drilled Lackey’s 89-mph fastball into the Sox bullpen, putting the Twins ahead, 5-2.

The Sox came back with a run in the sixth, when Napoli led off with a double, scoring on Daniel Nava’s single. But by then, the Twins had done enough damage to hand the Sox the loss.

“Yeah, the errant throw opened the door for them,” said manager John Farrell. “And in a matter of about a three-hitter span was the difference in the ballgame here tonight. But other than that, I thought John was strong throughout the seven innings, very good secondary stuff, pitched pretty good. But in that sixth inning was his own worst enemy.

“I think he turned around the wrong way. And, as ideally you’re following your lead shoulder while it’s closed, when he fielded the ball back across his body he opened up the other way and that’s what caused the arm to be a little bit late on the throw.”

Lackey, who threw a season-high 102 pitches, 74 for strikes, fell to 1-3 while his ERA fell from to 3.52 to 2.82.

“Felt great, throwing the baseball,” he said. “I pitched really well. Not real complicated, just got to make that one play and win the game.

“Just didn’t make a good throw. I didn’t have a real good grip on it. Probably should have reset and just thrown it to first and took an out. But it’s all on me.

“It’s definitely no fun. Most of the night felt really good, was locating well, had good stuff, just one play kind of ruined it all.”

The error, though, didn’t affect his mindset, he said.

“I think I got a out right after that,” Lackey said. “No, it didn’t have anything to do with it. Just got to make the play.”

Ross, as most veteran catchers will, deflected the blame from Lackey.

“I don’t know if he got rattled,” Ross said. “It wasn’t as well-located a pitch as he would have liked. And I may have -- with me missing that tag -- it was one of those, I don’t know, I may not have called the greatest pitch right there and may have lost my focus there more than him.”

It was a tough loss for the Sox and a tough loss for Lackey.

“It stinks,” Ross said. “Sometimes when you look back on the game, especially when you reflect after how well he threw, there’s some days when you go out there you feel like you got a chance to win. There’s some days you feel like, you know what, tonight just been our night. Tonight was definitely a night we felt like we should have won, because as well as he was throwing, that’s the best I’ve seen him since I’ve been here. He was really moving the ball in and out. I don’t know how many strikeouts he had but he was rolling early on. Just got in a little trouble. Unfortunately, we didn’t get out of that trouble.”

Still, the outing marked progress for Lackey, who missed all of 2012 rehabbing. He has allowed three or fewer runs in all four starts this season, his longest such stretch to begin a season while with the Sox, and longest overall since 2008, while with the Angels, when he did so in his first nine starts.

He has recorded eight strikeouts in two starts, after recording that many just three times previously in his Red Sox tenure, a span of 61 starts since 2010.

“I feel really good,” he said. “I feel like I’m not even all the way there and it’s progressing nicely. So I’m excited about the pitching part of it and moving forward, for sure.”