Lackey stops Padres, wins back more fans

Mike Shalin, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox are finally getting their money's worth out of John Lackey.
The veteran right-hander, signed to a five-year, $82.5 million free agent contract prior to the 2011 season, pitched hurt that season, was booed by the Fenway Park faithful and then missed 2012 due to Tommy John surgery.
Now, he's back. And he's pitching like the pitcher Boston thought it was getting in the first place.
Lackey threw eight innings -- the first time he's gone eight since June 17, 2011 -- and new contributor Brandon Snyder cleared the bases with a three-run double in the fourth, sending the again-hot Red Sox to a 4-1 interleague victory over the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night.
"He's on a great roll," manager John Farrell said of Lackey after his first-place team moved to 17 games over .500 (51-34) for the first time this season. "I think this is now four or five in a row where it's been two runs or less, seven innings each time or more.
"The last three outings it looks like his arm strength continues to build; we're seeing some velocities on the board that we haven't seen in quite awhile from him."
Actually, it has been the last four outings that Lackey (6-5) has gone at least seven innings and yielded two runs or fewer. He has a three-game winning streak and hasn't lost since May 29. Lackey walked three in those four games, four in his last six.
On Tuesday, he yielded only a home run to Jesus Guzman in the seventh inning. He gave up six hits, walked one and struck out six.
"My arm's feeling pretty good right now, and it's fun to let it loose a little bit and not feel anything," Lackey said.
And the fans are loving what Lackey's doing.
Asked if he's won the crowd back, Lackey said, "I don't know. I'm going out pitching and pitching well. I think that's all they want to see, I guess. Hopefully that's enough."
Said Farrell, talking about the fans, "It's certainly an improvement over (two years ago). I think, as he would probably admit, it's a work in progress. He recognized that some things had to change, and it all started with his performance on the mound, and it's been very good."
Koji Uehara, who blew a save chance Sunday and ended up with the win, worked a perfect ninth for his fifth save of the season and his fourth since taking over for struggling Andrew Bailey.
The Red Sox had four guys thrown out on the bases, including one at home from the outfield for the third time in four games. However, with Lackey throwing, and with Snyder having his second straight big start, they won for the sixth time in seven games on this homestand.
Heady plays by left fielder Ryan Gomes and second baseman Dustin Pedroia kept the Padres off the board in the fifth. First, Gomes deked Nick Hundley into only going from second to third on Alexi Amarista's wall single. Then, Pedro Ciriaco, traded from Boston to San Diego last month, hit a grounder to third. Snyder threw to second as Hundley headed for home. Pedroia, knowing how hard it would be to double up Ciriaco, threw home -- and Hundley headed back to third.
So, instead it becoming 3-1, it stayed 3-0 and Lackey got out of the jam.
"It's Pedey's presence of mind," Farrell said.
Snyder, who had a two-run double and a single in his first start Sunday (with Stephen Drew hurt), came through with the hit that chased rookie Robbie Erlin (1-1). The hit came after Snyder hit one foul down the line.
"It's been amazing," Snyder said of his Red Sox experience. "It's just an awesome feeling to have that trust in me. Big shoes to fill in up here. I'm just trying to do my part."
Jose Iglesias singled home the other Boston run in the sixth inning.
The Padres have lost three straight and 10 of their last 14.
"John pitched well," said San Diego manager Bud Black, Lackey's former pitching coach with the Angels. "He was hitting spots with the fastball. Fastball at the top of the zone was outstanding, the good hard slider, good breaking ball.
"We couldn't solve him."
Erlin's loss gave rookie pitchers a 1-8 record and 8.13 ERA against Boston this season.
Pedroia was thrown out at the plate after a David Ortiz double (the 500th double of Ortiz's career) in the first inning. Or was he? It looked as if Pedroia missed the plate but that catcher Hundley never tagged him. Umpire Paul Nauert called the runner out, even though Pedroia crawled back to touch the plate.
NOTES: Ortiz is the 58th player, the fifth still active, with 500 doubles. ... Boston CF Jacoby Ellsbury had two hits to extend his hitting streak to 12 games, during which he's batting .412. He also swiped his big-league-leading 33rd base. ... Celtics top draft pick Kelly Olynyk was at the game and on the field during pregame. ... The game marked the first managerial matchup of Black and Farrell, ex-pitching staff mates with the Indians. ... Injury update for Boston: Disabled RHP Clay Buchholz started a throwing program as he recovers from an inflamed bursa sac in his right shoulder. Drew continues to make progress with his strained right hamstring. ... San Diego RHP Edinson Volquez faces LHP Jon Lester in Wednesday night's second game of the three-game series. ... Padres first base coach Dave Roberts, a Red Sox hero for his 2004 playoff stolen base, received a nice ovation when introduced before the game. Ex-Soxers Glenn Hoffman (third base coach), Phil Plantier (hitting coach) and Mark Loretta (special assistant, baseball operations) are also with the Padres. Ciriaco, who stole two bases in the game, also was well-received.

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