By Sean McAdam
TORONTO - He had been tagged for nine runs on 10 hits, lurching through his start before finally imploding in the seventh inning when the game quickly went from a one-run contest to a one-sided laugher for the Toronto Blue Jays.
It marked the fourth time in seven starts that he had given up at least six runs, but as John Lackey turned around in front of his locker to answer questions, the poor outing seemed like the least of his concerns.
On the mound, Lackey had been even more demonstrable than usual, shaking his head in disbelief when he disagreed with home plate umpire Gary Darling's ball-and strike calls even when, as was the case most times, his outrage seemed misplaced.
His habit for throwing his hands up in the air when balls got through the infield or found open space in the outfield was seemingly more acute than usual. When Jose Bautista's liner in the seventh hit the wall on the fly, nowhere near where Carl Crawford had positioned himself, his disgust was somewhat understandable if unnecessarily showy; when he registered the same anger after a bullet off the bat of John McDonald shot past a diving Kevin Youkilis just inside the third-base bag, the demonstration seemed ridiculous and self-pitying.
And now, taking questions, Lackey continued to lash out and point fingers.
Asked to evaluate his start, Lackey rolled his eyes and snapped: "Come on, man, ask a damn question."
Commenting on the five-run seventh which featured two walks and two base hits after two were out he noted: "Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. That's pretty much the story of the whole damn year."
Later, told that Terry Francona had said that he wanted to leave Lackey in to face McDonald because the pitcher had had success against the veteran infielder in the past, Lackey said: "Everybody's had success with him in the past. You can't give hits to him when you've got other guys in the lineup that can hurt you."
That stinging assessment of McDonald, a journeyman infielder, represented a serious breach of baseball etiquette and violated a code in which players seldom, if ever, mock an opponent's ability.
He recounted the fourth inning when, after allowing a homer to McDonald on an 2-and-0 pitch, "I gave up a single to Rajai Davis and the guy scores on no other hits."
That represented either a bit of revisionist history or a jab at catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia - or both.
What Lackey conveniently neglected to mention was that Davis had swiped second despite a pitchout and strong throw from Saltalamacchia, a sure sign that the steal was the result of Davis getting a huge jump on the pitcher.
After Davis stole third, too, Lackey couldn't keep the ball in the infield as Yunel Escobar delivered a sacrfice fly, scoring Davis.
But after denigrating McDonald and pointing fingers at teammates, the most troubling comment from Lackey came at the end of his session with reporters when he concluded: "Everything in my life sucks right now."
One reporter, seeking clarification, asked Lackey if he was okay. Lackey at first seemed puzzled by the query, then shifted to anger, warning reporters of the consequences if they chose to pursue off-the-field questions.
(In spring training, it was reported that Lackey's wife, Krista, was diagnosed with breast cancer.)
Saltalamacchia, for his part, maintained that Lackey didn't seem distracted by anything on the mound.
"I've never seen him this focused and this determined," Saltalamacchia said. "He wanted it. Every inning in the dugout he was talking to me and feeling good."
But that depiction seemed at odds with the rest of the night, with Lackley alternately defensive and aggressive, self-pitying and accusatory.
Nearly a quarter of the way through his season, Lackey's ERA is a bloated 8.01, among the highest of any starter taking a regular turn in either league.
But to watch and listen to him Wednesday night was to come away with the distinct impression that poor pitching is merely a symptom of some larger issues.