Boston Red Sox

Lackey suffers familiar fate in Arlington

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Lackey suffers familiar fate in Arlington

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- John Lackey's career ERA at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington stood at 6.11 before Saturday night's start.

The fact that that number increased following his outing tells you everything you need to know about Lackey's night, and, with it, how the Red Sox 2011 season is going so far.

Lackey talked a good game in spring training about being in better shape, having better arm strength and experiencing a better feel for his full repertoire of pitches.

But on the mound Saturday for his season debut, there was more of what made his first season with the Red Sox ultimately disappointing: too many baserunners, too many balls in play, and too many big innings.

Lackey didn't offer any excuses this time-- though he hinted that he got squeezed on a pitch to Julio Borbon for what would have been the final out in the fourth. He didn't try to suggest, as he did often last season, that he was the victim of bad luck, or subtly suggest that his defense let him down.

Then again, it was hard to dress this one up: 3 23 innings pitched, 10 hits allowed, 9 runs charged. And of the 10 hits, seven were for extra bases, topped by a grand slam by former teammate Adrian Beltre.

No amount of sugarcoating could cover this up.

Since 2008, Lackey is 2-5 with a 8.39 ERA over 11 starts against the Rangers. In that span, they're hitting .369 against him with 10 homers, which makes you wonder about the team's decision to have Lackey open the season here rather than Josh Beckett.

Of course, it was just one start. But again, the discouraging thing about Saturday was that it was so familiar. In 2010, Lackey seldom was mediocre, despite a won-loss record and ERA that suggested precisely that. His final numbers were, instead, the mean average that resulted from a good number of quality starts -- he led the team, as he pointed out more than once during the spring, in that category -- and another 10 or so in which he was, like Saturday night, abysmal.

There were extenuating circumstances Saturday. Like the Red Sox, the Rangers can lay claim to a formidable offensive lineup. And unlike the Red Sox -- so far, at least -- nearly every hitter in the Texas batting order appears locked in.

Throw in a summer-like night, swirling winds and an already favorable ballpark for hitters and it was a bad cocktail for Lackey.

All the more discouraging was that Lackey thought the start of this season would be different.

"It's definitely not the start we wanted to get off to -- personally or as a team,'' said Lackey. "I expect to do well every time I pitch. It's a shock when something like this happens, for sure. It sucks. But it's one game.''

After allowing a leadoff homer to Ian Kinsler, Lackey seemed to settle down some, retiring seven of the next eight hitters, including three strikeouts in the span of four at-bats.

But the respite was brief. The Rangers began squaring up pitches and driving them all over the ballpark. Baserunners seem to come off an assembly line.

This was the same pitcher who gave up the most baserunners of any pitcher in the American League last year, falling into the same old patterns.

"You just kind of wipe this away,'' concluded Lackey, "and go back to work.''

That's about all he can say or do. But on a night when some were looking for a fresh start for Lackey, he couldn't provide one.

"We've got a long way to go,'' said Lackey.

He was talking about the long season, and how it was way too early to be drawing conclusions. But he could have been talking about himself and how much work he still needs to do.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Drellich: Injuries for Betts, Pedroia, Nunez, unnerving in final week

Drellich: Injuries for Betts, Pedroia, Nunez, unnerving in final week

BOSTON — Even before Mookie Betts wrist flared up and Eduardo Nunez re-aggravated his knee Monday, the Red Sox’ health situation looked tenuous heading into the final week of the regular season. Particularly when it came to position players. Dustin Pedroia was out of the lineup Monday after a 1-for-26 road trip.

Now the scene turns scary. Consider that every other American League team that has clinched a postseason spot (or in the case of the Twins, is expected to) is one of the majors’ top five teams in runs scored per game: the Astros, Yankees, Indians and Twins. The Sox are 10th. 

The Sox lineup lacks firepower to begin with. Losing any more at this time of year is a recipe for a rough October.

"It sucks. It sucks," Nunez said. "Especially this time of year when it's close to the playoffs. It sucks."

The regular-season results show the Sox have adapted well overall when guys like Pedroia and Nunez have missed time. But that’s the regular season, and adding Betts to the mix is just disquieting.

MORE:

Nunez on Monday returned to the lineup for the first time in 16 days. Now he isn’t expected back until during the Astros series, his right knee injury re-aggravated

But there’s room for good news yet. Betts is to get his left wrist examined Tuesday. A positive prognosis there, and there should be a sense of a crisis averted. On Monday night, he expected to be fine, but he also didn't know what was going on. 

Farrell before the game made clear Nunez wasn’t exactly full go yet.

“[His return is] quicker than what it possibly could have been. You’re talking about a ligament damage to the PCL [posterior cruciate ligament] and I know it’s less severe than an ACL/MCL, but still it’s about pain tolerance,” Farrell said. “It’s about managing it. His body has to recondition to take care of that. His muscles have to respond in a different way. … If he feels a little bit of a zinger, that’s going to go away. He’s not putting himself at further risk.”

Farrell said after the game the feeling is Nunez didn’t do any new damage, but nonetheless, it’s easy to think now the Sox should have waited longer

Meanwhile, Pedroia’s been managing a left knee injury all season and didn’t play.

“When the knee starts to talk back to him a little bit, we’ve all got to listen to it and give him a down day,” Farrell said. “I would expect him to be back on the  field tomorrow.”

Farrell thought it reasonable to connect the knee to Pedroia’s recent poor performance hitting wise.

All year, resiliency has been a buzzword for Sox because of their propensity for late-inning comebacks. Sunday’s eighth-inning rally against the Reds was the latest example, leading to the Sox’ 42nd come-from-behind win. 

How they’ve dealt with a variety of health situations adds another layer to their reputation for handling adversity. Per spotrac.com, the Sox have had the fifth most disabled list days this season, 1,601. 

The Indians were doubted going into last year’s postseason because of health situations with their pitching. They did pretty well. But it’d also be foolish to minimize the importance of injuries to Pedroia, Nunez and Betts, and how they look heading into October.

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Mookie Betts to get left wrist examined Tuesday

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Mookie Betts to get left wrist examined Tuesday

BOSTON — First Mookie Betts right hand was bothering him. Now his left wrist is acting up to the point he was pulled from Monday's 6-4 loss to the Blue Jays in the eighth inning and is headed for an exam to find out what's going on Monday.

"I’m not really that concerned. I think I’m  going to be fine," Betts said. "Just a couple days ago. I just took a swing and felt it. It’s just been kind of painful for swings, but that’s just the part of the season."

Betts felt it again on a swing Monday.

Betts, who's always a calm guy, didn't seem to be particularly worried. But when he was asked to describe the sensation, it sounded far from pleasant.

"Just like a sharp pain," Betts said. "I can’t really move my hand for a little bit, but I think, again, I don’t really know what’s going on. We’ll find out tomorrow."

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