BOSTON – John Lackey wasn’t a rock star Saturday. He was a laborer who worked his fingers to the bone.
Lackey grinded through 5 1/3 innings in Game 2 of the ALDS. He gave up four runs on seven hits while striking out six and walking three. Typically, such a performance against David Price isn’t enough. But this time, the Red Sox were able to punch out at the end of the day with a 2-0 series lead after downing the Rays 7-4 at Fenway Park.
“Tonight was a blue collar night on the mound,” John Farrell of Lackey’s performance. “He gave us everything he had. Fortunately, we were able to give him a little bit of cushion, where he wasn’t making every pitch with his back against the wall. But John is such a strong competitor. … He’s not going to give in at certain at‑bats. And the bullpen picked him up as needed.”
The Red Sox never trailed Saturday, as the offense was relentless against Price. Boston jumped ahead 2-0 in the first inning, and then scored at least one run in the third, fourth and fifth. The Rays cut it to 6-4 in the sixth inning, but Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa benefited from a pair of key double-play balls in the seventh and eighth inning, respectively. David Ortiz increased the lead to 7-4 in the eighth with his second home run of the contest, and Koji Uehara was his usual efficient self in nailing down the win.
“It was fun to see our guys do their thing. It was a great team win,” Lackey said. “Guys scoring runs early on, really helped me out. And turned some great double plays. Just an overall good team win.”
Lackey needed to shake off some rust Saturday, as he entered the contest having not pitched in a game since Sept. 24. The right-hander went an inning in Boston’s intrasquad scrimmage Wednesday, but that hardly compares to playoff baseball, and Lackey’s lengthy layoff between starts seemed to have an adverse effect.
“Maybe a little bit, yeah,” Lackey said when asked if the layoff impacted his command. “There was definitely — I thought my stuff felt pretty good, as far as the spinning the breaking ball. But the command just kind of was hit or miss for pretty much the whole time I was out there.”
Lackey kept plugging along despite his control problems. And when he needed to make a pitch in a key spot, the 34-year-old rose to the occasion, striking out Ben Zobrist looking to end the fifth inning with two runners on.
“It was awesome. The atmosphere out there was unbelievable. The people were going crazy,” said Lackey, who was making his first postseason start as a member of the Red Sox. “And I guess when I struck Zobrist out to get out of that one jam, it was a fun place to be, for sure.”
The Fenway Faithful gave Lackey a standing ovation when he walked off the mound in the sixth inning. They recognized that while Lackey didn’t have his best stuff, he still emptied the tank in a workmanlike effort.