Notes: Lackey has no answers for struggles


Notes: Lackey has no answers for struggles

By Maureen Mullen Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON -- While there was much to be happy about with the Sox offense in the 18-9 win over the hapless Orioles Monday night, the starting pitching is still mostly in shambles this month.

John Lackey went just 4 13 innings, giving up eight runs on 11 hits and two walks with three strikeouts and a wild pitch. He threw 105 pitches, 75 for strikes. Despite a six-run lead after three innings, Lackey did not stay in the game long enough to qualify for a win.

With the outing, his ERA went from 6.19 to 6.49, while the ERA of Sox starting pitchers in September went from 6.38 to 6.87. It was the 13th time in 19 games this month a Sox starting pitcher has gone just five innings or less.

I thought he actually had pretty good stuff, said manager Terry Francona. I thought he threw a lot of strikes. Had trouble putting hitters away. Pitch count was very high and just got to the point where it was hard to leave him in. We needed to stop the runs now. At that point we were up by 11-8 . . . its hard to leave him in. And I wanted to because I didnt want to get into our bullpen that early.

Contrary to what his manager said, Lackey did not think he had pretty good stuff. After the game, Lackey seemed as frustrated and confused as anyone by his performance.

I cant explain it, Lackey said. Thats the best Ive felt warming up in the bullpen all year. I dont know what the hell happened.

First inning allowing the first three batters to score, I definitely was missing some locations. Probably overthrowing a little bit because I felt pretty good. After that, I mean, youre going to have to go back and look at some of those pitches and look at what happened, just look at the line score.

On this night, his offense was able to pick him up. Lackey, though, has not earned a win in five consecutive starts since Aug. 23, going 0-3 in that span.

Im glad we won, for sure, obviously, but Im pretty frustrated, he said. I dont know what to tell you.

With the team struggling 5-14 this month and after the bullpen had been heavily used in the first game, Lackey wanted to get deeper into his start.

Its like that all the time, he said. You want to try to get deep in a game to keep those guys in line. But especially in a doubleheader you like to go deeper, for sure. But it didnt happen.

Lackeys late-season outing did little to induce confidence in himself or others.

I pitched pretty good my last time out, felt pretty good about it, he said. And tonight, like I said, physically, arm strenghth wise, I felt about as good as I have all year. Had the inning where I got two guys out and the runner got on with a strikeout, giving up two runs. Then had a bases-loaded ball that falls in on me for another two runs. I dont know, man.

Asked if his frustration had been building or was a product of his latest outing, Lackey replied:

Yeah, all of the above.

The seventh inning was the first time the Sox have ever had an inside-the-park home run (Jacoby Ellsbury) and a conventional grand slam (Conor Jackson) in the same inning.

Adrian Gonzalez was lifted for pinch-runner Lars Anderson after his seventh-inning single. Gonzalez appeared to be favoring his left calf, which has been bothering him, going to first base.

Hes a little tender, Francona said. That calfs grabbing at him a little bit. Fortunately speeds not a big part of his game. I think he can manage it. If he cant we wont play him, but I think he can handle it.

Francona expects Gonzalez to play Tuesday.

Gonzalez combined to go 5-for-7 in the doubleheader and how has 203 hits this season. Mo Vaughn is the only other Sox first baseman to ever hit at least 200 hits, with 207 in 1996 and 205 in 1998.

With a double and an inside-the-park home run, Ellsbury has 78 extra-base hits this season, behind only Fred Lynns 82 in 1979 by a Sox center fielder.

Marco Scutaro went 3-for-5 with two RBI. He is hitting .422 (27-for-64) with 18 RBI in 18 games this month. Going 3-for-3 in the first game, he has consecutive 3-hit games for the fifth time in his career and second this season (also Aug. 7 and 8).

Carl Crawford was a late scratch from the starting lineup for Game 1 of the doubleheader because of a stiff neck. He also missed Game 2. Darnell McDonald took his place in left field for Game 1. Conor Jackson played left field for Game 2 and batted 7th.

Manager Terry Francona said J.D. Drew might see a doctor today to have his broken right middle finger looked reevaluated.

Right-hander Dan Wheeler has been dealing with forearm stiffness. Wheeler said he felt something on his last pitch in Toronto on Sept. 7. Hes been playing catch the last few days. There is no structural damage but there is also no timetable for a return to the mound, either.

With the doubleheader in the middle of a long homestand and no off day until Thursday, managing the bullpen can be a challenge.

If youre winning the first game, you go for it, Francona said.

Right-hander Junichi Tazawa has been stretched out, and could go multiple innings, if needed. But he had Tommy John surgery in March 2010 and there has to be some recognition of what hes gone through, Francona said.

Left-hander Erik Bedard, who is scheduled to start Tuesdays game, has not pitched since Sept. 3, sidelined by back and knee ailments. In his last start he went six innings, throwing 101 pitches. Hes not likely to get to that pitch count Tuesday, Francona said.

Triple-A Pawtucket pitching coach Rich Sauveur has joined the Sox staff and will be with them through the homestand.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.

Biggest Red Sox busts in recent memory


Biggest Red Sox busts in recent memory

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Farrell angered after Castillo fails to run out grounder

Farrell angered after Castillo fails to run out grounder

The Red Sox signed Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract bn August 2014. Over parts of three seasons, the 29-year-old has a .679 OPS across 337 plate appearances in the majors and spent the vast majority of the 2016 season at Triple-A Pawtucket.

Castillo had a chance to start things off on the right foot in 2017, but that ship has already sailed. On Thursday against Northeastern at JetBlue Park, Castillo didn’t run out a routine ground ball. He claims he lost track of the outs. Manager John Farrell isn’t happy about the situation. Via Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald:

“Disappointing for a couple of reasons,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “One, he has lost the number of outs. Still, regardless of another of outs, getting down the line is controllable. And for a player in his situation, every little aspect of the game is important. That’s something that was addressed in the moment. He needs to execute the game situation. And for that matter, every player. But that one obviously stood out.”

Everyone always makes far too big a deal about running out grounders. It’s a real nit to pick when it’s February 23 and your team just finished playing an exhibition game that is even more meaningless than the other exhibition games that will be played in the coming month.

That being said, Castillo has to prove himself to merit inclusion on the 25-man roster and that means dotting all his i’s and crossing all his t’s. Even if he went hitless all spring, Castillo could have at least said he couldn’t have done anything else better. But on day one, he already gave his team a reason to count him out.