Commentary

Another off night for Lackey

Phillies expose pitcher's ongoing problems with consistency, command

Updated: May 22, 2010, 7:05 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Red Sox pitcher John Lackey is known for consistency.

It's not often that the veteran right-hander has lost back-to-back starts in his career. In fact, since the start of the 2008 season, he has lost in consecutive games only twice. On the heels of a 5-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers in his previous start, Lackey took a pounding Friday night and suffered another loss as the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Red Sox 5-1 at Citizens Bank Park.

[+] EnlargeJohn Lackey
AP Photo/Matt SlocumJohn Lackey pitched only five innings against the Phillies and allowed four runs on six hits, including two home runs.

Lackey worked only five innings and allowed four runs on six hits, including two home runs, with five walks and three strikeouts. He threw a total of 107 pitches, 62 strikes.

There's a reason the Phillies are one of the best teams in the National League and they proved why against the Red Sox and Lackey. The Phillies' Ryan Howard hit a solo shot to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning before Jayson Werth unloaded a monster two-run homer in the fifth to give Philadelphia a 4-1 advantage.

"Honestly, not good enough to win tonight," Lackey said. "Really, the pitch to Werth is pretty much all I would take back. The rest of it was a break or two here or there and it could have been a lot different."

Lackey now has 12 walks in his last three starts, but he said he's not concerned with that statistic.

"The walks didn't really affect me," he said. "I gave up that one homer [Howard] that probably doesn't go out anywhere but here, and one [Werth] that pretty much goes out of anywhere."

Pitching coach John Farrell said that Lackey needs to make some tweaks.

"The consistency and command has not been game to game as he would expect or everyone else," said Farrell.

There are a few things Lackey can do to correct the mistakes, according to the pitching coach.

"The checkpoints are clearly to stay over the rubber a little bit longer to allow his arm swing to catch up and be able to particularly throw the ball to his glove side of the plate, or down and away to right-handers," Farrell said. "His delivery is rather simple and yet the execution of it has not been quite as he's shown from outing to outing, but it's a matter of continuing to work and refining and repeating the checkpoints of his delivery to command a baseball."

The Phillies did a solid job working the counts and getting deeper. According to Farrell, Lackey does have the ability to execute breaking balls in 3-2 counts, so playing in a smaller ballpark like Citizens Bank Park against a good fastball-hitting team, the intention was to work in more off-speed pitches on Friday. "The overall number of breaking balls he threw is probably higher tonight than typical," said Farrell. "That's what he and Victor [Martinez] felt like, given the situation, falling behind in the count and not grooving a fastball was his best approach of putting the ball on the ground."

Red Sox manager Terry Francona was a little more lenient on his starter than the pitching coach was.

"He missed with pitches, but not by much," said Francona. "Sometimes that's the difference of having a good line when you leave the game and one that doesn't look like that. I don't think it's like he's scattering balls. He's trying to be pretty fine, but sometimes it's because it's the situation of the game."

Martinez, who accounted for Boston's lone run with a solo homer in the top of the first inning, had the best vantage point for Lackey's ninth start as a Red Sox, and the pitcher's battery mate had mixed feelings on the outing.

"Obviously he didn't bring his best stuff tonight," said Martinez. "At the same time, I think he made some good pitches. That pitch that Howard hit out, I really didn't think that ball was gonna go. I thought it was just a popup but it ended up leaving the park, and that's a guy you can't make a mistake to here because he'll make you pay. That pitch to Werth I thought was a good pitch; it was in and [Werth] was able to get his hands inside the ball."

Lackey's record drops to 4-3 with a 5.07 E.R.A in nine starts. Friday's outing was only the second time this season he's worked less than six innings in an outing, with the other coming on April 19 against Tampa at Fenway Park, when he allowed eight runs on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings.

"I haven't pitched my best by any means and there are multiple things kind of going on," he said. "It's been a little tough luck here and there, and a lack of execution, too."

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins and Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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