He threw six scoreless innings against the vaunted New York Yankees. Showing none of the issues his colleagues Josh Beckett and Jon Lester had earlier in the week, Lackey yielded just three singles and struck out three, leaving with a well-earned 1-0 lead.
Jonathan Papelbon, however, will remember Lackey's Red Sox debut as just plain bitter. Called upon in a tie game in the top of the ninth, Papelbon got through one frame before falling apart in the 10th and getting saddled with his first loss of the year.
It was a tale of two pitchers whose efforts added up to a 3-1 loss to the Yankees before another sellout crowd at Fenway Park.
Although he had pitched here several times before, Lackey said the vibe was much different being on the home side. He admitted to also being a bit distracted by some personal issues, but showed no effects of either the off-field problems or the on-field drama of a Boston-New York affair.
"Honestly I had a lot of things on my mind today, and there was some added pressure," Lackey said. "You want to win the series and being here I wanted to start out with a good impression. … As a starter, your job is to give your team a chance to win. I felt like I did that tonight, so after that you just want a team win."
The latter goal was not achieved. The former most certainly was.
Lackey retired 11 of the first 13 men he faced and did not allow a runner to reach second base until Curtis Granderson stole the bag with one out in the fifth. A second man got that far in the sixth after a hit batter and a walk, but Lackey's best friend, the ground ball, resulted in an inning-ending double play and sent the big Texan to the showers feeling fine.
He had thrown 100 pitches, plenty for the first start of the season. After seeing what transpired in the wake of Lackey's departure, however, manager Terry Francona might have wished he could have taken a chance.
"He pitched great," Francona said. "I would've liked to have him pitch all night."
Alas, there was reliever Scott Schoeneweis allowing the tying run to reach in the seventh, and Daniel Bard letting it come in on a Nick Swisher single to right. And there was Papelbon, taking over for Bard and starting the 10th off with a fat fastball that Granderson deposited into the right-field grandstand.
And there was Papelbon walking Brett Gardner and then Derek Jeter, helping to set up an RBI groundout by Mark Teixeira that gave the Yankees an insurance run. And with that, Lackey's hope for a successful debut with the Red Sox went by the wayside.
"You try to go out there and put yourself in a position to win, and you don't do that, so of course it's disappointing," Papelbon said.
Both the Boston closer and his skipper said that he was as strong as he has been in some time. Papelbon himself said if he can duplicate the way he felt physically Wednesday for the rest of the season, he will be fine.
But the results were clearly not there and what could have been a beautiful beginning for Lackey was a bitter night for the Red Sox.
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