Unlike last season, when injuries derailed the team's postseason aspirations, the Red Sox are on pace this season to cruise into October. Things are still tight in the AL East, but with the luxury of there being a lack of wild-card contenders, manager Terry Francona can focus some of his attention on other matters — such as who will be the team's third starter in the playoffs behind Josh Beckett and Jon Lester.
When Erik Bedard was acquired at the trade deadline, many figured the southpaw was the favorite to earn the third spot. But a midsummer resurgence from John Lackey may have solidified the embattled righty in that role.
Since a horrendous start on July 4 against Toronto, Lackey has won six of his past seven starts and has been one of Boston's most consistent hurlers. He continued his improved pitching this week with two wins over the Yankees and the Mariners, bumping his record to 11-8 on the season. For his work, Lackey is the Amica Pitcher of the Week award winner.
The 6-foot-6 right-hander took the mound at Fenway Park on Saturday with his team looking up at New York in the standings for the first time in a month. Going up against Yankee ace CC Sabathia, Lackey held his own against New York's hot lineup, going six strong innings and allowing only three earned runs while striking out five in a 115-pitch effort. Jacoby Ellsbury provided the offense for Boston in a 10-4 victory, which evened the teams' records atop the AL East standings.
Friday night began inauspiciously for the 32-year-old Lackey, as he gave up six hits and two walks to the first 12 hitters he faced in a start at Seattle. Despite the rough beginning, Lackey rebounded to go six innings, yielding four earned runs and striking out three in a 6-4 win for Boston.
Lackey's overall numbers this week are nothing special — 12 innings pitched, 16 hits, seven earned runs, eight strikeouts, four walks — but he did pick up two more wins while giving his team a chance in each game by working himself out of trouble in key moments. Given his solid postseason numbers in the past and his improved performances of late, Lackey may find himself toeing the rubber come playoff time for Boston.
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