Lackey shouldering load for Red Sox

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Lackey shouldering load for Red Sox

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON Things might just be turning around for John Lackey, and it couldnt be happening at a better time for the Sox.

With both Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester on the disabled list, leaving Boston with a patchwork starting rotation, Lackey has stepped in and stepped up for his ballclub.

The much-maligned right-hander did it again Friday night with seven innings of one-run ball against a Seattle Mariners team that admittedly cant swing the lumber violently enough to navigate their way out of a brown paper sack.

But wins count against those teams as well, and Lackeys teams are 11-2 in their last 13 games against Seattle.

Lackey did what he does best while balancing his season record to 8-8, and pathetic Ms offense notwithstanding pounded the zone with his fastball, change and curveball offerings in the 7-4 victory at Fenway Park.

Sure Lackey allowed eight hits to a terrible group of hitters in those innings, but he also continued a consistently solid body of work since escaping the 15-day disabled list in June.

With Buchholz still unable to pitch off a mound this weekend and Lester not coming back until Monday, the 6-foot-6, 245-pounder is now 6-3 since getting a cortisone shot before coming off the DL in early June. Sure there were a couple of stinkers thrown in there against the Blue Jays and Padres that has jacked the ERA up a little bit, but Lackey has been throwing strikes, eating up innings and winning ballgames as he was always advertised to do before arriving in Boston.

Its the recent string of solid Lackey performances combined with the returning injured pitchers that should have the Red Sox looking in another department when it comes to trade deadline upgrades.

The Sox appear pretty set in their starting rotation, and Lackey certainly has had plenty to do with that. The Mariners scratched for a single run in the first inning, but Lackey protected a slim lead before the Sox offense exploded for five runs in the decisive bottom of the seventh inning.

I felt pretty good. Going against Felix Hernandez youve got to pitch well, and I commanded my off-speed pretty well, said Lackey. That might have been my best changeup of the year, so thats been nice. Weve had some guys hurt, and its been nice to step up for sure at a time when weve needed it.

Im just going to go out there and try to win every time I get a chance. I feel good, but Im not going to get too far ahead of myself.

Lackey is 6-3 with a 4.99 ERA in nine starts since coming off the DL, but the bigger number to factor in is the 4411 strikeouts-to-walks ratio for a control-craving righty thats simply challenging offenses to hit him.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia has watched Lackey battle the haters and pitch through personal issues this season when pretty much everyone expected the burly righty to fold up the tent. But Lackey has kept on trucking every fifth day on the mound, and thats earned him a wealth of respect in the Sox clubhouse.

While some pro athletes can be looked at as slow healers or guys unwilling to play unless theyre 100 percent healthy, Lackey isnt one of those players.

Hes never lost it. Hes had really bad luck to be honest with you, said Saltalamacchia. Hed go three solid starts and then go 3-0 and then hed have the one bad outing and everybody would write him off and start talking about him, said Saltalamacchia. Thats tough. I cant imagine what hes been through this year, but hes a professional. He grabs the ball every fifth day no matter whats going on around him. He just does his job.

Hes gonna pitch through discomfort. Hes gonna pitch through pain. Thats just what he does. He just steps up. He does an unbelievable job.

Thats the kind of command and daring confidence that Lackey always exhibits when feeling healthy and full of pitching gusto, and thats the guy Terry Francona has seen over the last couple of months.

Hes also the guy he hopes to continue seeing over the final few months of the season with the Sox ensconced in first place atop the American League East.

I thought he was tremendous, said Francona of Lackey. He threw strikes. He really pitched. His stuff to me is the same. Hes been pretty consistent, especially since he came back from the disabled list. I just think he needs to locate. When he doesnt he gives up hits. When he does then he gets guys out. I think its as simple as that.

I know his ERA is higher. I know what it is. Its probably going to be higher than he wants it at the end of the year. But I know if he pitches like this the rest of the year then its huge for us. I think thats what were hanging our hat on. I think he is too. He has an ability to be a really good pitcher and shoulder a big burden Thats what it looks like he wants to do.

The Sox even benefitted from the Texas high school football upbringing that saw Lackey go through double-session practices in 110 degree heat that made Friday nights steamy conditions feel downright comfortable in comparison.

With 96 degree temperatures when Lackey tossed his first pitch against the Ms offense on Friday night, it seems the embattled righty was the coolest guy in the ballpark while continuing to dig his way out of what appeared to be a lost season.

Hes not all the way out yet, but Lackeys ditch isnt getting deeper either.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Rodriguez continues strong stretch as Red Sox blank Seattle, 3-0

Rodriguez continues strong stretch as Red Sox blank Seattle, 3-0

BOSTON -- The Red Sox scored runs in bunches in tallying four consecutive victories. They leaned on pitching and defense to earn their latest.

Eduardo Rodriguez pitched six scoreless innings and the Red Sox took advantage of a sloppy performance by the Seattle Mariners for their season-high fifth straight win, 3-0 on Friday night.

It was the third win in a row for Rodriguez (4-1), who gave up just five hits and struck out four while throwing a season-high 112 pitches. Craig Kimbrel earned his 13th save.

"I just go out there and pitch," Rodriguez said. "I'm never really thinking about numbers. I just go out there and throw my pitches and do the best I can do."

That effort is producing one of the best stretches of his three-year career.

Rodriguez has pitched at least six innings in his last seven starts, going 4-0 in that span. He hasn't allowed a run in 10 innings and only 11 runs in his last 49 1/3 innings. His ERA is just 2.01 over that same period.

"He was amazing," Jackie Bradley Jr. said. "Put zeroes on the board all night long. And he made the big pitch when he needed to."

The only run support Rodriguez needed came in the second inning, when Hanley Ramirez scored on Josh Rutledge's RBI groundout. Boston added two more runs in the sixth, scoring on a wild pitch and passed ball.

Manager John Farrell said his 24-year-old pitcher is in a "very good place" right now.

"He was powerful tonight," he said. "It's just a matter of his abilities coming together. This has always been an extremely talented young guy. We've talked about his maturity, we've talked about his progression. It's been on display here for a good number of starts consecutively."

Yovani Gallardo (2-5) took the loss. He lasted 5 1/3 innings, gave up seven hits and was responsible for all three of Boston's runs.

"The whole night obviously wasn't consistent," he said.

Seattle has won just one of its last seven.

Meanwhile, Boston gave Rodriguez got lots of help defensively. Bradley had a pair of nice plays, getting an outfield assist in the second and running down another ball on the warning track in the sixth.

In addition to the pitching miscues, the Mariners had all kinds of issues in the wet conditions, committing two fielding errors.

The Red Sox left 11 runners on base, leaving the door open for the Mariners to get back in the game. But Seattle couldn't capitalize, going 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position. The Mariners also left seven runners stranded.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: LHP James Paxton (strained left forearm) was slated to make a rehab start Friday night in Double-A Arkansas. He has been on the 10-day disabled list since May 5. He could be activated for a start at the end of the month against Colorado.

Red Sox: Infielder Marco Hernandez will be out the remainder of the season after undergoing stabilization surgery on his left shoulder on Friday. Hernandez was placed on the disabled list May 4 with a left shoulder misalignment. The 24-year-old hit .276 with two RBIs in 21 games. ... A night after he left the game with left knee pain, 2B Dustin Pedroia was held out Friday for what Farrell said was "precautionary reasons" because of the wet playing surface.

MISSING: OFFENSE

Mariners manager Scott Servais said they are doing everything they can to find production from an offense that has gone missing.

"Offensively, we struggled to put innings together. That's kind of been the story here for the last week or so, we just haven't gotten the line moving at all, for whatever reason," he said. "Guys are frustrated by it, we all are. We know we're better than that, offensively. It's not happening right now."

Seattle was held scoreless for the fourth time this season.

UP NEXT

Mariners: RHP Rob Whalen (0-2, 4.09 ERA in Triple-A Tacoma) will be making his first major league start since last season with Atlanta. He will be 12th different starting pitcher the Mariners have used this season.

Red Sox: LHP Brian Johnson (1-0, 7.20 ERA) will be making his second major league start this year and third of his career.

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Dustin Pedroia is out of the lineup again tonight after leaving the Red Sox game Thursday night with knee pain in the fifth inning.

Josh Rutledge will start at second base as the Sox open a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park.  

The weather and sloppy field conditions were a factor in John Farrell deciding to get Pedroia out of the game Thursday and conditions haven’t improved significantly Friday. 

Pedroia (.288, two homers, 21 RBI) had surgery on that knee in October. It's the same leg that was hurt when Manny Machado slid into Pedroia at second base in April, the slide that sparked the plunking war between the Orioles and Red Sox.

The full lineups: 

MARINERS
Jean Segura SS
Guillermo Heredia CF
Robinson Canó 2B
Nelson Cruz DH
Kyle Seager 3B
Danny Valencia 1B
Taylor Motter LF
Ben Gamel RF
Mike Zunino C

Yovanni Gallardo RHP

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Andrew Benintendi LF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Hanley Ramirez DH
Mitch Moreland 1B
Josh Rutledge 2B
Jackie Bradley Jr CF
Christian Vazquez C
Deven Marrero 3B

Eduardo Rodriguez LHP