Persistent Rain, Pesky Padres Sink John Lackey, Red Sox at Fenway

Persistent Rain, Pesky Padres Sink John Lackey, Red Sox at Fenway David Ortiz said he felt like he was swimming to home plate each at-bat. Drew Sutton described the footing as two inches of slush.

John Lackey? He was virtually washed away by the absurdly wet conditions that existed at Fenway Park on Wednesday afternoon.

Lackey failed to get through four innings in a game that was delayed four times for a total of more than two hours, suffering the loss in a 5-1 rain-shortened setback against the San Diego Padres. The awkward outing, in which he gave up all five runs in just 3 1/3 frames, left Lackey with a 5-6 record to go with a 7.36 ERA.

Rain or no rain, it represents a step back for a guy who was 3-0 since returning from the disabled list and gave his team reason to believe he had finally obtained a grip on some momentum. On Wednesday, he simply couldn't get a grip.

"They weren't great," Lackey said of the conditions, which may have contributed to a brutal fourth inning when he was extremely wild. "I don't think I've ever hit anybody with the bases loaded."

But that he did against the weak Padres lineup, only after he walked a man with the bases loaded, and just before he uncorked a wild pitch with the bases loaded, which came prior to giving up a single with the bases loaded.

In the inning that defined the ugly affair, Lackey gave up four runs on two hits, two walks, two hit batters and the wild pitch. He was fortunate his closing line wasn't any worse, for Michael Bowden emerged from the bullpen to get the final two outs and leave runners on the corners.

The game was delayed to begin with and then there was a 38-minute delay in the top of the third. Rain continued to fall in the fourth. Was that the primary issue? Lackey's catcher seems to think so.

"It was obvious in that inning, it was sloppy out there," said Jason Varitek. "It was even hard for me throwing balls back to the mound. It was that entire game. That's a tough one for him to have to wear, because he has been throwing the ball well.

"In that situation, we just couldn't get a feel for anything. Tried to throw a breaking ball, changeup. Had a hard time with his fastball, too. A lot of that can be conditions."

Lackey's manager will also give his big righty a pass. Just not the best day to be on the mound.

"He went back out after the rain delay, and it just looked like he lost his feel," Terry Francona said. "I don't think the conditions were very good for either pitcher. But he just lost his command and it cost us some runs. Obviously, he didn't have a real good feel. You could tell. He hit a lefty with a breaking ball. He was scattering some pitches."

Still, the other five pitchers who appeared in the slop combined to allow just one run in 11 2/3 innings, walking only three. On a day when the elements messed with a lot of people, they seemed to completely obliterate Lackey, who doesn't have a quality start since April.

Lackey, when asked if the wetness hindered his grip, was rather non-committal. And apparently unhappy.

"I don't know," he told reporters. "You guys are going to write what you want to write. Whatever."

Because the Red Sox are 44-30, Lackey's struggles have been easier to take. They feel as if he is essential to the operation, however, and expect a turnaround to come in time.

"People don't understand what a great leader he is for the entire pitching staff," Varitek said. "He works his tail off. He keeps trying to add and do different things and become better. And he will."

That next chance figures to come next week in Philadelphia. The extended forecast calls for rain.

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