Lackey struggles, can't save bullpen

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Lackey struggles, can't save bullpen

By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- In his fifth start against his former team, John Lackey suffered his first loss.

The Red Sox fell to the Angels, 11-0, on Thursday afternoon, little more than 11 hours after their previous game ended. Lackey lasted just four innings, giving up eight runs on 10 hits with three walks and a strikeout. It was his shortest outing since his first start of the season, when he lasted just 3 23 innings in Texas on April 2.

Entering the game, Lackey had been perfect 4-0 with a 2.45 ERA against the Angels but on this afternoon nothing went right for the big right-hander. Although he threw first-pitch strikes to 19 of the 25 batters he faced, Lackey was hit hard and took the loss, falling to 2-4 (7.16).

After Red Sox pitchers threw 8 23 innings in Wednesdays loss to the Angels -- a marathon 13-inning game that took almost eight hours to play -- manager Terry Francona needed Lackey to go deep into Thursdays game. Lackey, though, was unable to accommodate Francona.

Obviously a tough day, said Francona. He came out of the bullpen, I think pitching coach Curt Young felt like he was really down, depth to the pitches like we talk about. Got to about the third inning, hit Peter Bourjos with an 0-2 pitch. Then everything seemed to kind of flatten out a little bit, stay in the middle, and they bunched together a bunch of hits. But we needed him to try and stay out there for obvious reasons and they just kept swinging. They put up a bunch of hits and we didnt.

Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who has been paired with Lackey for each of his outings this season, knew the objective for him and Lackey.

He didnt have his best stuff, but we knew going in we had to go deep in the game, he said. So I think maybe we tried to just do the best we can and go deep and we made a few mistakes. They just came out swinging today knowing that we had to throw strikes and go deep.

Lackey allowed six two-out hits in the game, including five straight in the fourth, when the Angels scored three runs. Francona, who was disappointed in the results, said he was not disappointed in Lackeys effort.

He will give you everything he has, regardless. Francona said. Never disappointed in Lack. Id never say that. The game didnt go the way we wanted to, thats an understatement. But never be disappointed in his effort. Hed stand out there all day and pitch. Thats not an issue.

Lackey, though, was disappointed in himself.

Yeah it was frustrating, he said. I had several guys with two strikes and wasnt able to put people away. Wasnt able to finish things off.

I didnt locate as well. Probably fell into a few patterns. They might have been sitting on a few things.

If I can pitch the way I pitch, it wouldnt matter how they approach me. I just didn't pitch very well.

Of the 19 first-pitch strikes he threw, nine reached base six on hits, one hit batter, and two by walks. Saltalamacchia could point to nothing specific in Lackeys struggles.

I cant really, he said. They hit some good pitches and at the same time we left some pitches over the middle. But they were aggressive today, which we planned on. But they were just, felt like they were getting the right pitch at the right time.

Saltalamacchia did notice a difference in the Angels approach at the plate Thursday compared to the first three games in the series, which the two teams split.

Yeah, they were a little more aggressive, I feel, definitely with runners in scoring position, a little more aggressive, he said. But they got the hits.

In all, the Angels hit Red Sox pitching for 18 hits, one shy of a season high allowed by Sox pitchers this season.

Last night was rough on the guys, Lackey said. I took off a little early to get ready but I definitely think there was a sense of me needing to pitch well to get some momentum going, for sure. If Id have pitched better early on, I think the guys might have found a little more energy, for sure, today and my lack of execution and lack of pitching well definitely hurt that morale.

Although he had gotten little run support in four straight starts, Lackey said that was not the reason for his poor performance Thursday.

This ones a lot different, he said. I could have won the other two. But I didn't pitch well, didnt deserve to win this one.

While Lackey and Saltalamacchia may be still be getting comfortable with each other, Lackey would not point to that as a reason for his struggles.

Salty had nothing to do with it, Lackey said. I pitched bad. My head shakes fine from side to side. If I throw, it its my fault.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

Mitch Moreland fancies himself an ideal fit with Red Sox

Mitch Moreland fancies himself an ideal fit with Red Sox

Mitch Moreland put up mediocre numbers and won a Gold Glove in a walk year. For his efforts, he received a one-year, $5.5 million contract on the open market. 

That’s not a lot. Maybe his .233 average stood out to teams more than his 22 homers, but either way it’s somewhat surprising that a one-year deal on low money is the best he could do given the fact that his career average was .258 prior to last year and he’d hit .275 or higher in two of his previous four seasons. 

The contract might not be a major score for Moreland, but he said choosing Boston was. 

“I had a couple options, but really just the whole fact that it’s place that I really wanted to play,” he said of Boston. “Getting an opportunity to come here and be a part of a winning environment, being part of a winning environment and having a chance to go out and play for a championship is huge to me, personally, and this is a great option. 

“What they were able to do last year, you know you were in for a fight when you were playing these guys. It was a gritty group of guys that had a ton of talent. I like to think of myself as that type player, as a gritty type player and hopefully I felt like I could fit in here and move forward and try to help out and make that goal happen of winning a championship. 

“That’s the main goal as far as playing this game for me. I feel like we’ve got a great opportunity here, and that was before the [Chris] Sale news broke, too, you know? So seeing that also, it just shows you that we’re in it. We’re in it and trying to go all out to make that happen. I’m happy to be a part of it.” 

It doesn’t hurt that his batting average is higher at Fenway Park than it is in any other stadium in which he’s had at least 30 at-bats. Moreland has hit .341/.378/.683 with four homers and eight RBI in 41 career at-bats at Fenway. Asked to explain his success in Boston, he noted that “comfortable” was the only word that came to mind. 

So what is the Red Sox’ plan for the former Rangers first baseman? To play him at first against righties and let Hanley Ramirez DH, John Farrell said. 

Farrell did also point to Moreland’s recent work against lefties. Last season was one of two in his career (the other being 2013) in which Moreland had a better average against lefties than against righties. Moreland hit .277/.320/.479 against southpaws last season, with .221/.293/.407 marks against righties.

“Against right-handed starters, Mitch will be the first baseman,” Farrell said. “That gives us the flexibility to DH Hanley in that spot. One thing I also mentioned to Mitch is we’re certainly open to his at-bats growing in number against left-handers, last year was his best year against left-handers in his big league career.

"With Mitch, getting everyday at-bats against right-handed starters at first base and Hanley moving to the DH slot, that alignment, we also have the ability against quality left-handers, where Hanley would go back to first base and then we’ve got the ability to rotate some guys through the DH slot. 

Added Farrell: “His strengths as a player are many, but we feel this is a very good fit in a number of ways, and positionally first and foremost.” 

Red Sox make Mitch Moreland signing official

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Red Sox make Mitch Moreland signing official

The Red Sox officially announced the signing of first baseman Mitch Moreland Thursday. To make room for him on the 40-man roster, the team designated left-handed pitcher Williams Jerez for assignment. 

Moreland has played his entire career with the Rangers, winning a Gold Glove at first base last season. He hit .233/.298/.422 with 22 homers and 60 RBI for the Rangers last season before becoming a free agent. He has a career batting average of .254, with a career-high 23 homers in both the 2013 and 2015 seasons. 

A second-round pick of the Red Sox in the 2011 draft, Jerez started his professional career as an outfielder before being moved to pitcher.