Lackey suffers familiar fate in Arlington


Lackey suffers familiar fate in Arlington

By Sean McAdam

ARLINGTON, Texas -- John Lackey's career ERA at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington stood at 6.11 before Saturday night's start.

The fact that that number increased following his outing tells you everything you need to know about Lackey's night, and, with it, how the Red Sox 2011 season is going so far.

Lackey talked a good game in spring training about being in better shape, having better arm strength and experiencing a better feel for his full repertoire of pitches.

But on the mound Saturday for his season debut, there was more of what made his first season with the Red Sox ultimately disappointing: too many baserunners, too many balls in play, and too many big innings.

Lackey didn't offer any excuses this time-- though he hinted that he got squeezed on a pitch to Julio Borbon for what would have been the final out in the fourth. He didn't try to suggest, as he did often last season, that he was the victim of bad luck, or subtly suggest that his defense let him down.

Then again, it was hard to dress this one up: 3 23 innings pitched, 10 hits allowed, 9 runs charged. And of the 10 hits, seven were for extra bases, topped by a grand slam by former teammate Adrian Beltre.

No amount of sugarcoating could cover this up.

Since 2008, Lackey is 2-5 with a 8.39 ERA over 11 starts against the Rangers. In that span, they're hitting .369 against him with 10 homers, which makes you wonder about the team's decision to have Lackey open the season here rather than Josh Beckett.

Of course, it was just one start. But again, the discouraging thing about Saturday was that it was so familiar. In 2010, Lackey seldom was mediocre, despite a won-loss record and ERA that suggested precisely that. His final numbers were, instead, the mean average that resulted from a good number of quality starts -- he led the team, as he pointed out more than once during the spring, in that category -- and another 10 or so in which he was, like Saturday night, abysmal.

There were extenuating circumstances Saturday. Like the Red Sox, the Rangers can lay claim to a formidable offensive lineup. And unlike the Red Sox -- so far, at least -- nearly every hitter in the Texas batting order appears locked in.

Throw in a summer-like night, swirling winds and an already favorable ballpark for hitters and it was a bad cocktail for Lackey.

All the more discouraging was that Lackey thought the start of this season would be different.

"It's definitely not the start we wanted to get off to -- personally or as a team,'' said Lackey. "I expect to do well every time I pitch. It's a shock when something like this happens, for sure. It sucks. But it's one game.''

After allowing a leadoff homer to Ian Kinsler, Lackey seemed to settle down some, retiring seven of the next eight hitters, including three strikeouts in the span of four at-bats.

But the respite was brief. The Rangers began squaring up pitches and driving them all over the ballpark. Baserunners seem to come off an assembly line.

This was the same pitcher who gave up the most baserunners of any pitcher in the American League last year, falling into the same old patterns.

"You just kind of wipe this away,'' concluded Lackey, "and go back to work.''

That's about all he can say or do. But on a night when some were looking for a fresh start for Lackey, he couldn't provide one.

"We've got a long way to go,'' said Lackey.

He was talking about the long season, and how it was way too early to be drawing conclusions. But he could have been talking about himself and how much work he still needs to do.

Sean McAdam can be reached at Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

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.