Lackey's no life of the party
Starter sputters in attempt to jumpstart his weary Red Sox teammates
BOSTON -- Look hard enough, and every game will tell you something about a team. This one was no exception.
We now know what the Boston Red Sox look like when they are sleepwalking.
The puzzle, of course, is that the most rested guy on the team is the one who looked like he pulled the all-nighter.
Ask John Lackey what time it was, and the answer most definitely was not, "Awesome o'clock," the one the Red Sox pitcher gives on a wicked YouTube parody.
The Red Sox were still weary from last call at 2:45 a.m. the night before and in need of a pick-me-up after a dispiriting 13-inning loss to the Los Angeles Angels in the mud and the blood and the beer. Instead, Lackey gave them every reason to wish they'd ignored their alarm clocks and rolled over for some more shuteye after an 11-0 loss Thursday.
"Last night was rough on the guys,'' Lackey said. "I took off a little early to get ready. I definitely think there was a sense of me needing to pitch well to get some momentum going, for sure. If I had pitched better early on, I think guys might have found a little more energy for use today. I think my lack of execution and my lack of pitching well definitely hurt that, I guess, morale, whatever you want [to call it].''
The margin of defeat matched Boston's worst loss of the season, a 16-5 thumping by Tampa Bay on April 11, and the Angels' 18 hits fell one short of the 19 the Rays put up in that game. The Sox also were shut out for the fourth time this season, and after winning the first six games they played against Los Angeles, sent the Angels winging back to the West Coast with wins in their past two.
After pitching well in his previous three starts but finding himself on the losing end of two shutouts, Lackey was no match for his former team, the Angels, who got the same amount of rest as the Sox did but must have collectively dined on Terry Francona's favorite breakfast of a dozen bacon strips washed down by cans of Red Bull.
"This one was a lot different,'' said Lackey, comparing Thursday's outing with a 5-0 loss in Oakland in which he left the game trailing 1-0, and a 2-0 loss to the Mariners in his previous start, last Saturday in Fenway Park. "I could have won those other two. I didn't pitch well, I didn't deserve to win this one.''
The Angels played whack-a-mole with their former ace, knocking him around for eight runs and 10 hits before Francona could bear to watch no longer, lifting Lackey after Mark Trumbo's two-run home run into the Monster Seats made it 8-0. It was a startling reversal for Lackey, who had won all four of his previous starts against the Angels, including seven scoreless innings in Anaheim on April 24.
"I didn't locate as well,'' Lackey said. "Probably fell into a few patterns. They might have been sitting on a few things.''
The first five Angels runs came with two outs -- including the three they scored in the fourth on five consecutive singles.
"It was frustrating, I had several guys with two strikes and wasn't able to put people away,'' he said. "Wasn't able to finish things off.''
The Sox, meanwhile, managed little against their former teammate Joel Pineiro, who pitched his way out of town in 2007 but on Thursday had the Sox pounding his sinker into the ground, with 12 of the 17 outs he recorded coming on ground balls, including three double plays.
Even in those rare moments when the Sox did something right, it came out all wrong. The most egregious example of that was when David Ortiz smoked a ball off the left-field wall in the fifth, one of his three singles on the day, but was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double. The Sox were trailing by nine runs at the time.
And Kevin Youkilis, hustling to cover second on an infield hit off diving shortstop Jed Lowrie, managed to hurt his left wrist in an awkward collision with baserunner Peter Bourjos. He remained in the game, but he took his glove off several times to inspect his hand. Lowrie, too, appeared shaken up on the play -- he landed awkwardly on his surgically repaired left wrist -- but he, too, stayed in the game and later made a leaping catch and hit a double.
Salty had nothing to do with it. I pitched bad. ... My head shakes fine from side to side. If I throw it, it's my fault.” -- Red Sox pitcher John Lackey, on whether he and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia were out of sync
"On the play it hurt,'' Lowrie said. "It's fine. It kind of startled me. I rolled up on it. That happens sometimes when you dive. After a couple of minutes it started to feel better.''
Lowrie said he could not recall ever having been on a baseball field as late as he'd been the night before.
"It was a long night,'' he said. "No one in here is going to use yesterday as an excuse for today's performance. They played the exact same game we did [Wednesday], and they just came out with a little bit more today.''
Lackey, who was booed loudly as he left the mound by a crowd that needed only to glance at the new video board to see his ERA had risen to 7.16, took the bullets for this one, especially when someone asked if he and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia did not mesh as well as they had in previous starts.
"Salty had nothing to do with it,'' Lackey said. "I pitched bad.
"My head shakes fine from side to side. If I throw it, it's my fault.''
Francona gave the slumping Dustin Pedroia (6 for 50, .120) the day off. The newly arrived reinforcements for the bullpen, Scott Atchison and Rich Hill, both were pressed into service Thursday, especially Atchison, who played the role of sacrificial arm, going 3 2/3 innings while giving up seven hits and three runs. That's the kind of outing appreciated by a manager grateful that Atchison took one for the team, but hardly conducive to ensuring an extended stay in the big leagues.
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Indeed, a club source confirmed that Atchison would be gone by morning, replaced by right-hander Alfredo Aceves, who was scratched from his scheduled start Thursday for Pawtucket and will pitch out of the pen for the Sox.
At least Francona, who spent the night in the clubhouse with the equipment crew, had a free Thursday evening for dinner and a movie, should he choose. Unlikely, given that less than 24 hours earlier the Sox were within a game of finally reaching .500 but now find themselves three games under headed into this weekend's series against the Minnesota Twins. Unless they've been pounding the boulevard, the Twins should be very well rested, having been here since Wednesday night after flying in from Chicago after a day game.
Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.
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