John Lackey’s Performance Against Orioles Not Quite As Ugly As Box Score

John LackeyBOSTON — One of the oldest baseball expressions encourages players to “hit ‘em where they ain’t.” The Baltimore Orioles heeded that advice in Friday’s series opener.

John Lackey surrendered six earned runs on 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings as the Red Sox dropped an 8-4 decision at Fenway Park. It obviously wasn’t the type of performance Lackey was looking for, especially after struggling against the New York Yankees in his last start, but the box score looks far worse than the right-hander actually pitched.

“I thought he had good stuff tonight,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “He managed their lineup with a couple of walks instead of giving in. But they hit a number of ground balls that found some holes (and) they were able to bunch some hits together. … The two-run single in (the sixth inning) was a little too much to overcome.”

Let’s be clear. Lackey wasn’t his best. His four walks were a season high and his most in a start since July 12, 2013, and he never really settled in after the Orioles jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning. But several of the hits Lackey surrendered were balls on the ground, as opposed to his last start, when the veteran hurler surrendered a career-high four home runs in a losing effort against the Bronx Bombers.

“I thought he was great,” Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “There were a lot of balls that got through. They found some holes. I thought his fastball was great. We didn’t help him out out there defensively.”

The Red Sox didn’t commit a single error in Friday’s loss, but the defense was far from perfect. Mike Carp failed to make a play in the fifth inning that opened the door for two runs, and a few other balls were just beyond the defenders’ reach. It really was a game in which the Orioles quietly built innings and answered any time the Red Sox appeared to gain some ground.

It didn’t help that the Red Sox’s offense left 12 men on base despite each player in the starting lineup collecting one hit.

“It was just one of those nights,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said in a perfect description of Friday’s loss.

Friday’s performance marked the first time in Lackey’s career he has surrendered at least six runs and 10 hits in consecutive starts. That obviously jumps off the page, but the eyeball test showed things weren’t quite as ugly as they seemed Friday.

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