By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It didn't begin well certainly, but by the time it was over, John Lackey turned in a pretty good start Saturday.
After giving up three runs despite no hard-hit balls against him in the first, Lackey settled down and gave up just one more runs the rest of the way before being lifted
with two outs in the sixth.
"It felt like I made some good pitches in that inning,'' said Lackey, who improved to 7-8. "I had a lot of balls on the ground and kind of ran into a little bad luck, but the guys came back swinging the bats and we ended up winning the game.''
Marco Scutaro was charged with a throwing error in the first, then couldn't come up with two other infield grounders as the Rays got out in front.
As he often does, Lackey showed his displeasure with his body language, throwing his arms up in the air when plays weren't made. But eventually, he settled down and turned back the Rays.
The win was the second straight strong outing, but Lackey wasn't willing to say this was the start of a good run for him.
"I'm not getting into predicting the future,'' he said. "(But) I feel pretty good.''
Later, when Francona came out to get him with two on and two out in the sixth, an emotional Lackey pleaded his case to no avail.
"I felt like I could have gotten (Casey Kotchman) out,'' said Lackey. "But looking back on it, we had a two-run lead. Tito probably protected me a little, so I can respect that as well.
"I couldn't do much about it. I had already had a visit (to the mound), so it's not like you can argue your way out of that one.''
Listed at the top of the Red Sox batting order, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia aren't necessarily known for their power.
But in the last two weeks, the two are on home run binges. Ellsbury homered in the fourth, giving him four in the last seven games and a career-high 13 for the season.
Ellsbury has three homers in seven games against Tampa Bay this year.
Pedroia added a solo homer of his own in the seventh, making it 7 in his last 14 games and six in his last eight. He, too, has 13 homers, just five shy of his career high of 18, set during his MVP season.
"I've felt good for a while,'' said Pedroia. "I kind of had (one of these homer binges) at the beginning of the year than I didn't hit another for, like, 300 at-bats. When they come, I guess you've kind of just got to ride it out.
"I'm not a home run hitter by any means. When I hit them, it's nice but it's extra. I'm not trying to hit home runs at all. It might look like it, but trust me, I'm not.''
Randy Williams got word shortly before midnight Friday that he was being called up by the Red Sox, replacing Bobby Jenks on the roster.
He arrived in the Tampa area late yesterday morning, and didn't have to wait long to make his debut.
Francona called upon Williams with two on and two out in the sixth after Lackey had reached 107 with his pitch count.
Williams quickly made a contribution, getting lefty Casey Kotchman to ground out to second for the third out, ending Tampa's threat.
He then came back out for the seventh inning, too, and retired the only two hitters he faced: Evan Longoria on an infield popup and Matt Joyce with a strikeout.
"To get into that situation was outstanding,'' said Williams, "and to get through it unscathed was a great way to start here.''
"That was a big part of the game,'' said Francona. "That's why we got him here. He's going to be interesting.''