We didn’t go into extras yesterday, but we needed every good performance we could get. Bailey almost lost the game for us, but he closed the deal just in time; if he’d allowed one more run, we’d have been in the lately-all-too-familiar position of having to put in extra playing time after a grueling schedule of having done so too often recently already. Fortunately, with a bit of offense and a lot of solid pitching, we didn’t have to go that route.
This was, without a doubt, one of the best starts I’ve seen from Lackey this year. His line was fantastic, but that by itself wasn’t it. He just seemed comfortable. He seemed at ease, and he seemed himself. It looked like he was in complete control of the situation at all times. And that’s always something to celebrate in a starting pitcher. You want your starter to be able not only to set the tone for the game but also maintain it, and that’s exactly what Lackey did. He kept his head down and delivered, ensuring that we were in a position to bring in the W.
In total, he pitched seven innings and needed 101 pitches to do so. That is efficiency right there; most pitchers considered aces use around one hundred pitches to get through seven innings. He gave up only two runs on seven hits, only one of which, a double, was for extra bases. Both of those runs scored in the first. His second pitch of the game was hit for a single; that double then scored the game’s first run. Then he gave up another single followed by a wild pitch and a third single that resulted in his second run. Then he recorded three straight outs and never looked back.
Even when he couldn’t get hitters out, he made sure that he limited their productivity. He walked only one, which means he knew exactly where the strike zone was and how to use it to his advantage. And he struck out four. Four strikeouts isn’t that many, but considering everything else he did right, it’s safe to say that he had no trouble ensuring that outs were recorded using a variety of methods.
And for his hard and stellar work, he picked up the win. Uehara, who pitched the eighth, picked up a hold. Bailey, who came way too close to blowing it completely, ultimately picked up the save. We scored just enough runs to eliminate any detrimental effects that the two-run home run he gave up in the ninth would have had.
Our time to shine was the middle third of the game; we scored in the fifth, sixth, and seventh. The fifth was our big inning. Pedroia singled, Papi struck out, and Carp hit an absolutely beautiful home run to right on a changeup. The count was 3-1, so he relaxed and let the opportunity come to him. Gomes singled after that, Salty flied out, and Drew doubled Gomes in.
In the fifth, Ellsbury singled, stole second, moved to third on a sac bunt by Victorino, and scored on a groundout by Pedroia. Lastly with one out in the sixth, Gomes turned on the power. His count was 1-2, which clearly doesn’t favor the hitter, but his eye was keen enough to pick out a splitter that had gone wrong and launch it past the center field fence.
Obviously Bailey’s faltering in the ninth was cause for concern. Ultimately, we managed to eke out a 5-4 win. At least we kept it to nine innings this time.
In other news, this time the Bruins won in sudden death, tying the series at one game apiece with a 2-1 victory.