Wet and wild: Lackey can't handle Padres

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Wet and wild: Lackey can't handle Padres

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com Follow @dannypicard
BOSTON -- @font-face font-family: "Times New Roman";p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; a:link, span.MsoHyperlink color: blue; text-decoration: underline; a:visited, span.MsoHyperlinkFollowed color: purple; text-decoration: underline; table.MsoNormalTable font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; div.Section1 page: Section1; John Lackey wouldnt come out and say it himself. Herealizesit would sound like he was making excuses.

But after a 38-minute rain delay with two outs in the top ofthe third inning, Lackey was all over the place as he allowed four runs in the top of the fourth.

There were four rain delays at a soaked Fenway Park oon Wednesdayafternoon, totaling 2 hours and 24 minutes. Lackey was caught up in the seconddelay, and seemed to lose something when he hit a soggy mound in the fourth.

He went back out after the rain delay, and it just lookedlike he lost his feel, said manager Terry Francona after Bostons 5-1loss to the San Diego Padres in a game shortened to 7 12 innings because of the rain. I dont think the conditionswere very good for either pitcher. But he just lost his command and it cost ussome runs.

Obviously he didnt have a real good feel. You could tell.He hit a lefty with a breaking ball. He was scattering some pitches.

Lackey loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth. Hewalked Orlando Hudson, hit Anthony Rizzo, and then gave up a bunt single toCameron Maybin. After striking out Nick Hundley, Lackey walked in a run andthen hit Jason Bartlett with a pitch high in the shoulder, which scored anotherrun, giving the Padres a 3-0 lead.

It didnt get any better from there, as Lackey then threw awild pitch high and outside that scored San Diegos fourth run. He followedthat up by allowing an RBI single to Chase Headley, making it 5-0 and endinghis day.

Still, Lackey didnt come out using the conditions as anexcuse several hours later. But he did hint that they affected him.

I dont think Ive ever hit anybody with the bases loadedbefore, said Lackey during a brief, contentious postgame press conference.

When later asked about his grip on the ball being a possibleissue, Lackey said, I dont know. You guys are going to write what you want towrite. Whatever.

It will be written that Lackey lost the game during a fourthinning which saw him as wild as a pitcher can be.

But it will also be written that Lackey allowed a leadoffhome run to Will Venable in the top of the first, which gave the Padres anearly 1-0 lead.

After that, and before the delay, Lackey seemed to settle down.

He got ahead right away and then left a cutter over theplate to Venable, and then was throwing strikes, said Francona. I thoughthe was throwing the ball very well actually.

And while Lackey wouldnt come out and openly admit that theweather played a role in his sixth loss of the season, others made sure theydid for him.

I thought he threw the ball well, other than the one pitchhe made to Venable, said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. He was throwing theball well.

It definitely was wet and it was obvious that you lose yourfeel. He had a fastball that shot away from him, lost some changeups. Couldntquite figure out what was the best pitch to get him in the zone in thatsituation.

It was obvious in that inning, it was sloppy out there,added Varitek. It was even hard for me throwing balls back to the mound. Itwas that entire game. Thats a tough one for him to have to wear, because hehas been throwing the ball well.

Danny Picard is on twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.

Red Sox starters handled 'the big inning' differently in Indians series

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Red Sox starters handled 'the big inning' differently in Indians series

BOSTON -- Avoiding the big inning isn’t just a major concern for Red Sox pitching, it is for all pitchers, at any level.

They can be used as benchmarks for a pitcher’s worth, given one’s ability to minimize the damage, and are in general big momentum shifters.

In each game of the Cleveland series Boston’s starting pitchers were presented with an inning that had potential on running awry.

And each handled it differently.

Joe Kelly took care of business. Rick Porcello minimized the damage and moved on. And, in typical fashion, Clay Buchholz didn’t do well -- even though he managed to log a quality start.

Kelly’s big inning came in his 30-pitch fifth inning, where he lost his perfect game bid -- and gave him no chance at completing the game -- with three walks.

But despite a lapse in control and pressure mounting with runners in scoring position, he held down the fort.

He was able to stay in them moment and work through his worst inning unscathed.

“[I] just got a little bit out of my mechanics and tempo from the stretch,” Kelly said on his fifth inning struggles following Saturday’s 9-1 win. “The pitches still felt good. The life on the fastball felt good [and] the breaking stuff felt sharp. It was just a matter not getting that timing down with my mechanics and just being a little bit to late on getting my arm extended.”

The following day Porcello took the mound and was off once again. John Farrell credited it to a lack of sink on Porcello’s go-to pitch, which is definitely a problem if that’s the case.

But there’s a lot to be said about a pitcher who doesn’t have his best pitch, yet still goes out and pitches a good game (even if it doesn’t get marked as a quality start).

And there’s even more value in the fact that on a bad day, Porcello can still get out of a jam.

“I was overthrowing and out of my game a little bit,” Porcello said on his rough second inning in Sunday’s 5-2 win. “In the third inning I just tried to get the ball down and get some quick outs.”

He also explained that he tries to simplify his approach in starts when he doesn’t have everything working.

“[You] just regroup mentally and battle through it,” Porcello said. “[I was] just trying to keep the balls in the ballpark and let the defense make the plays behind you like they did today.”

Kelly and Porcello set a positive tone to end the series with the Indians after Buchholz had proven that even the Quality Start statistic is misleading at times.

“The one pitch to [Jason] Kipnis is the difference in this one tonight,” John Farrell said following Buchholz’s start Friday. “What we’ve seen is when it’ been a home run, it’s probably been a walk that’s mixed in . . .The home runs are going to happen I think we all look at the base runners leading up to where he puts himself into a little bit of a corner where you don’t have much margin for error with men on base.

“And then there’s been a fastball that’s leaked back to the middle. And that was the case again tonight. He’s trying to crowd Kipnis and to keep the ball in on him and it ends up on the inner half. To me I don’t know if it’s focus, it’s a manner of falling behind in the count and the walks are factoring. We’re working to get him over that hump.”

The “one pitch” being the issue for Buchholz got him a pass for a few starts -- not to belittle the issue, it still is one -- but putting runners on in excess is the righty’s big problem.

He’s clearly still not comfortable throwing from the stretch (never mind bring the game to a screeching halt) and that needs to change. Fact is pitchers throw out of the stretch more often than not.

And going back to the “one pitch” being the problem. It seems more often than not that it’s Buchholz’s “front-door” two-seamer that is supposed to start at a lefty’s hip and scrape the inner edge of the plate.

But once again it wound up catching too much plate, even more barrel and parking itself in the outfield bleachers.

The question beckons, “When will he stop using that pitch so frequently?” It is absolutely a valuable weapon, but if Buchholz has to see that the risk-reward isn’t in his favor.

Regardless, Buchholz needs to take a page out of Kelly and Porcello’s book. Simplify to minimize the damage.

He might even get a standing ovation like Kelly and Porcello when they got pulled.

Report: Shane Victorino released by Cubs

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Report: Shane Victorino released by Cubs

Shane Victorino's career may be approaching the finish line.

The 35-year-old outfielder's attempt to catch on with the Cubs is over, as Carrie Muskat of cubs.com reports he's been released. He had suffered a calf injury in spring training and was sidelined for about a month-and-a-half, then hit .233/.324/.367 in Triple-A Iowa. 

Victorino's first year in Boston, 2013, was far and away his best, as he hit .294/.351/.451 with 15 homers and 61 RBI in helping the Red Sox win the World Series. His next two seasons were riddled with injuries, and the Sox traded him to the Angels last July at the deadline for infielder Josh Rutledge. He struggled in Anaheim (.214/.292/.286 in 98 at-bats) and was allowed to become a free agent at the end of the season.