BOSTON — It all starts at the top.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said during Boston’s recent 10-game losing streak that the club’s turnaround needed to begin with good starting pitching. Jon Lester and John Lackey seemingly took that as a challenge, as the Red Sox have won three straight games behind a couple of strong performances from its top two starters.
“When you look at the last two nights, both John Lackey and Jon lester have done an excellent job of getting deep in the game,” Farrell said after Wednesday’s 4-0 win over the Atlanta Braves at Fenway Park. “We’ve gotten some timely hits. Xander (Bogaerts) with a big night offensively, Jackie (Bradley Jr.) with another big RBI situation. There’s a little bit more of a looseness in those type of situations — just a number of good at-bats up and down the lineup tonight.”
The Red Sox’s offense has been way more productive in its three consecutive victories over the Braves — something that’s obvious in the 18 runs the Sox have scored in that span against one of baseball’s best pitching staffs — and Boston will need timely hitting moving forward. But as the Red Sox learned last season, consistent starting pitching often is the key ingredient in a World Series contender. And as long as Lester, Lackey and the rest of the pitching staff continues to churn out steady performances, there’s reason to believe the Red Sox will continue to climb the ladder in the less-than-impressive American League East.
“That’s the biggest the thing,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “If you keep us in the game, we believe we have enough offense to score runs, and we’ve done that the last two nights.”
Lester wasn’t his best Tuesday, allowing three earned runs on eight hits over six innings. Lackey wasn’t exactly lights-out, either, surrendering eight hits Wednesday despite blanking the Braves for six-plus innings. But both veterans gave the Red Sox exactly what the club needed during a time of desperation. It’s become somewhat of a hallmark for both hurlers.
“It’s pretty special,” outfielder Jonny Gomes said after collecting two hits in Wednesday’s win. “Even all the way last year in the postseason, one of my biggest highlights that I remember is (Lackey) walking off the mound with the whole place chanting “La-ckey!” … For everything he battled through in this city and for the city to give back (and) take Lackey back, that was pretty special. He had an offseason and went back to work, and that’s Lackey right there.”
Lackey struck out nine and didn’t yield a single walk in Wednesday’s win. He closed off any potential threat — usually by punching someone out — and the Red Sox exited Fenway Park with their longest winning streak of the 2014 season.
Just how the Red Sox drew it up when they broke camp.