By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON Athletes in general, and baseball players in particular, are very good at closing the book on their last game, turning the page on their previous outing, good or bad. It sounds like a clich, but its what they have to do to be successful.
Still, going into the All-Star break after the outing that John Lackey posted Saturday night against the Orioles has to be encouraging. Lackey went 6 23 scoreless innings against the Orioles, allowing just three hits and a walk with seven strikeouts, along with two hit batters, and two wild pitches. The Red Sox won their fifth in a row and ninth of 10, shutting out the Os, 4-0, Saturday night at Fenway Park.
That was good, said manager Terry Francona. It was fun to watch.
Lackeys outing was drastically different and improved from his previous outing, when he got shellacked by the Blue Jays for seven runs in 2 13 innings on the 4th of July. This has been a trying season for Lackey. He has missed 21 games while on the disabled list with a right elbow strain. He has dealt with personal issues. And its been nearly impossible to predict from one start to the next what his performance will be.
While his season, though, has been nothing if not inconsistent, Lackey said there was not a big difference from a pitching standpoint to his last outing.
Theres a fine line between being good and bad, said Lackey, who improved to 6-8, lowering his ERA to 6.84. I guess I was locating a little better. Honestly, there wasnt a whole lot (of difference). My velocity was good.
As Lackey walked off the mound he was treated to a rousing ovation. In his departure in the Toronto game, he was given a chorus of boos. It was nice, Lackey said of the cheers
The main difference was command of the strike zone, locating his pitches. He threw 106 pitches, 69 for strikes, a 65 percent strike ratio, considerably above the 60 percent threshold that is considered acceptable. In his previous outing, the mark was 57 percent.
I was locating a little bit better, Lackey said. But not a whole lot.
Lackey, who threw his fifth quality start in 14 outings this season, was able to use all his pitches for strikes, including his curveball. Its huge, said Jarrod Saltalamacchia when Lackey is able to get swings and misses with the curveball.
Perhaps Lackey was primed for this kind of outing. In each of his last 15 outings against the Os he has pitched a quality starting, going at least 6 23 innings, as he did Saturday night. Since Aug. 3, 2005, while with the Angels, he is 9-3 with a 2.41 ERA against the Os.
Hopefully I can keep it going, he said.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen