Lackey misses mark against Blue Jays


Lackey misses mark against Blue Jays

By Maureen Mullen Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON It hasnt been an easy season for John Lackey. It's been equally difficult for him to figure out why.

He started the 2011 season slow, was injured, pitched well coming off the disabled list, but he had lost his previous two starts coming into Monday's game Then, against the Blue Jays on Independence Day, Lackey struggled once again and wasn't sure why.

Lackey lasted just 2 13 innings, giving up seven runs on nine hits, with no walks, two strikeouts, and a home run. In his career, he has only made two shorter outings.

He has now lost his last three, dropping his record to 5-8 with a 7.47 ERA. Since coming off the DL, he has given up 25 earned runs in 33 innings, for a 6.82. The three straight losses match the longest such streak of his career.

Definitely got to find that consistency, Lackey said. Ive felt a lot better since Ive come off the DL but Ive pitched some good games and lost and obviously had some pretty rough ones.

In three starts against the Blue Jays this season he is 1-2, with a 12.00 ERA, allowing 20 earned runs in 15 innings. In seven starts against the Blue Jays in his two seasons with the Sox, Lackey has posted a record of 2-4 with a 9.95 ERA, giving up 42 earned runs in 38 innings, his highest ERA against any team he has faced at least twice in that time.

The Blue Jays were on Lackey right from the get-go as leadoff batter Rajai Davis doubled on Lackeys third pitch of the game, stole third and scored when Kevin Youkilis couldnt handle the throw from Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Lackey gave up two more runs in the second, including a solo homer by Aaron Hill. In the fourth, he allowed three straight singles to open the frame before retiring a batter. After two more hits, including two-run double by Travis Snider, the last batter he faced, four runs had scored and Lackeys day was done.

We dug ourselves a hole early, said manager Terry Francona. I thought the breaking ball he had the other day in Philly the real good one wasnt there today. He left a couple up, especially last hitter. There were times he made pitches. He threw a down and in pitch to a left-hander, he hits it to left field for a hit. There was some hard contact. There was some contact that wasnt. A lot of hits and they strung them together and they put up a lot of runs.

Lackey, who walked off the field to a chorus of boos, said his primary problem was location.

I wouldve fixed it if I would have known how, he said. I gave up some soft ones that fell in on some good pitches and made some bad pitches that got hit hard. It kind of all added up to that.

His catcher agreed.

I think the main thing was just control, Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. He didnt have the accuracy hes normally got. But at the same time, it seemed like everything we threw, it could have been off the plate, it could have been down and they put it in play. There was some hits that just kind of fell in. At the same time they hit some balls good. Lacks great at being a competitor, keeping us in the ball game, just trying to outlast the other pitcher. Just today he didnt have it.

There have been no easy answers for Lackey, who has also been dealing with personal issues this season. After Mondays loss, he said, despite expected aches and pains, there is nothing physically wrong that would prevent him from pitching.

Ive been pitching for 10 years, man, he said. Were all hampered at this point in some way. But nothing, no excuse there, definitely nothing thats going to keep me from pitching.

Just continue to work hard. Ive made a lot of adjustments, kind of on the fly, and some of those hopefully will turn into results soon.

In his previous start, June 29 in Philadelphia, Lackey went 7 23 innings, giving up just two runs on eight hits with one walk and five strikeouts.

The way he pitched in Philly was the best Ive seen him, Saltalamacchia said. He was just, wherever I put the glove, he hit it. Had the velocity. Warming up in the pen Monday he looked great, had good velocity on the ball, everything was moving. They just, early in the count, they put balls in play and were able to get some runs.

The biggest difference against the Blue Jays on Monday was location, Saltalamacchia said.

I think thats something that hes always had, he said. Wherever you put the glove he hits it. So it was a mixture of he missed a few pitches, but at the same time, some balls fell in, that you know, thats just the way its been going for him. I just feel bad because hes out there competing every day.

Francona would not rush to judgment.

I dont think you ever evaluate 10 minutes after a game because thats dangerous, he said. Just a disappointing game all around. We didnt do a lot of things well. Well try to figure it out.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945


NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.