By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com 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