McAdam: New beginning for Lackey

191542.jpg

McAdam: New beginning for Lackey

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- The pitching line -- 5 23 innings, three earned runs -- wasn't anything that would otherwise get noticed. It was an average start, no more, no less.

But for John Lackey, owner of the line in question, it represented much more. Fifty-nine games into the season, it's a fresh start, a new beginning.

Lackey 2.0, if you will.

Through his first seven starts, Lackey wasn't just bad. He was historically bad, with a 8.01 ERA and four games in which he allowed six or more runs.

The Red Sox placed him on the disabled list in mid-May, with the hope that his elbow would benefit from a cortisone shot and some rest.

Lackey's fastball was regularly 91-92 mph, a slight uptick from his outings in April and May when he often struggled to maintain 90.

"Especially early on,'' noted Terry Francona, "he got his fastball by people and got some swings and misses.''

The biggest improvement Sunday, however, came with his secondary pitches. His cut fastball had more bite and depth and he also spotted his changeup effectively.

"I think,'' concluded Francona, "it worked out pretty well . . . He knows how to pitch. It was what we hoped for.''

Not dominant, certainly, and the command -- two walks, three hit batsmen -- was off. But it was a marked improvement over some of his earlier starts when Lackey turned ballparks into shooting galleries.

"I thought he looked great,'' enthused catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "I think he had better velocity on his fastball. The ball was coming out better. For the most part, his cutter was back to where I remember it being.''

Lackey's last start before his trip to the DL, of course, looked to many to be a man in distress, complaining that "everything in my life sucks right now,'' a clear reference to some off-field issues and the health of a family member.

In that last game, Lackey was a bundle of emotions, gesturing in displeasure when plays weren't made behind him. Sunday, he seemed to be in better control of his emotions, even if his actual control was spotty.

"The elbow definitely felt better than it had been,'' said Lackey. "Physically, I'm going to feel something. It just is what it is in there. But I felt like I was ready to go, ready to compete.''

He also made a subtle reference to being naturally distracted to his personal issues.

"I've just got get back to performing the way I can perform,'' he said. "I can't let outside stuff affect me. I just have to handle my business.''

While Lackey was away, the Red Sox pulled themselves out of their early spinout, reaching .500 and then climbing over it. The lineup ignited. Tim Wakefield and Alfredo Aceves generally filled in admirably. The panic atmosphere disappeared.

With three-and-a-half years remaining on his five-year deal, the Sox weren't about to cast Lackey aside. They could just hope that the downtime helped his elbow, and maybe, cleared his head some.

Off one outing, it seemed to have worked.

Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz constitute the rotation's Big Three. Salary aside, Lackey doesn't have to be a front-of-the-rotation ace. But he needs to give his team a chance to win, which he did Sunday.

"A good place to start, I guess,'' shrugged Lackey after it was over.

Or, more accurately, a good place to start again.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Quotes, notes and stars: Pomeranz 'made one pitch that hurt' Red Sox

Quotes, notes and stars: Pomeranz 'made one pitch that hurt' Red Sox

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 4-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers:

QUOTES:

"He pitched as we had anticipated at the time of the trade.'' - John Farrell on Drew Pomeranz.

"I had a good curveball and I was locating my fastball a lot better. I was in a lot better counts all night, but I made one pitch that hurt us.'' - Pomeranz on his outing.

"He was able to limit the damage against a very good offensive team. He pitched well enough to win. I just wish we could have put more runs on the board for him.'' - Jackie Bradley Jr. on Pomeranz.

 

NOTES:

* Until Monday night, the Red Sox had won their last six series openers.

* Drew Pomeranz has allowed four or fewer hits in 12 of his 18 starts this season.

* Eleven of Travis Shaw's last 15 hits have been for extra bases.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. had his 25th multi-hit game.

* Sandy Leon is hitting .500 (11-for-22) with runners in scoring position.

* The Red Sox are 21-21 in games decided by two or fewer runs.

* Dustin Pedroia (walk, single) has reached base in 28 straight games.

* Xander Bogaerts has 133 hits through 97 games. Since 1940, only Wade Boggs (134 in 1983; 135 in 1987) and Adrian Gonzalez (135 in 2011) had more.

STARS:

1) Justin Verlander

Verlander has enjoyed a bounce-back season of sorts this year, and the Red Sox got to see it up close Monday night as Verlander limited them a single run over six innings.

2) Jose Iglesias

The former Red Sox shortstop haunted his old team with a two-run homer in the sixth to put the Tigers ahead to stay.

3) Drew Pomeranz

The lefty absorbed the loss, but pitched well enough to win, giving up two runs in six innings while striking out seven.

 

First impressions: Pomeranz is better, but Red Sox fall to Tigers

First impressions: Pomeranz is better, but Red Sox fall to Tigers

First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers:

 

1) The same problem remains for Joe Kelly

As a starter, no one doubted Kelly's fastball, and the velocity with which he threw it. But the problem was, Kelly's fastball was often quite straight, and most major league hitters can hit a fastball without movement, no matter how hard it's thrown.

In his first appearance as a reliever for the Red Sox, the same problem reared its head.

Kelly started off Justin Upton with a 99 mph fastball. After an 89 mph slider, Kelly next threw a 101 mph fastball.

But Upton drove it on a line to the triangle for a triple, and two batters later, trotted home on a soft flare to center by James McCann.

Velocity is one thing and can produce some swings-and-misses. But ultimately, Kelly is going to need more than straight gas to get hitters out.

 

2) Drew Pomeranz was miles better in his second start

Pomeranz failed to get an out in the fourth inning of his Red Sox debut and was charged with five runs.

So when Pomeranz -- who allowed just one hit through the first three innings Monday night -- allowed a leadoff single to Miguel Cabrera to start the fourth, there was uneasy sense of deja vu at Fenway.

But Pomeranz quickly erased Cabrera on a double play and through five innings had allowed just three hits and a walk.

He got into some trouble in the sixth when he allowed a one-out, two-run homer to Jose Iglesias, erasing what had been a 1-0 Red Sox lead.

But Pomeranz was far sharper than his first outing, threw his curveball for more strikes and kept the Tigers mostly off-balance. His line (6 IP; 4 H; 2 ER; 2 BB; 7 K) will be more than good enough on most nights.

Just not Monday night.

 

3) They may lead MLB in runs scored, but there are still nights when the Red Sox offense can frustrate

It happened last Friday when they loaded the bases with no out against the Twins - and failed to score in a 2-1 loss.

It was more of the same Monday night when the Sox loaded the bases in the ninth -- and managed just one run.

The problems weren't limited to the ninth, of course. The Sox put the leadoff man on in both the seventh and eighth innings -- and didn't score.

For the game, the Sox left 11 men on and were just 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position.