I don’t think I’m alone in not knowing what to think. One start we’re talking about the fact that Lackey may need Tommy John surgery and the next start we’re talking about the fact that the only thing Lackey needs is a repeat performance of the one he just delivered. It’s a totally confusing situation. Due to the way he’s pitched so far this season, I have absolutely no idea where last night’s outing came from.
It begs all kinds of interesting questions, like where was it before, and why specifically last night, and what made it happen, and what can we do to make sure it happens consistently from now on, and is it a health issue, and can it really be a health issue that’s that severe if was able to overcome whatever it was, and is this the Lackey we should expect to see or was it just supposed to be a pleasant surprise, and all sorts of other inquiries that probably have to go unanswered until the team figures it all out first. Lackey insists that his arm felt the same last night as it did during his previous start, so honestly I just have no idea. As with Dice-K, it’s possible that they’re not entirely sure what’s going on either. I’m just saying it’s possible.
He pitched six and two-thirds innings. And they were shutout innings, too. For once, he got the win and deserved every bit of it and the standing ovation he got when he was taken out. He allowed only three hits and walked only one. He struck out seven. He threw 106 pitches, sixty-nine of which were strikes. He executed all five of his pitches with precision and skill. The fastball, the changeup, the curveball, the cutter, and the slider were all deadly coming out of his hand. He used each and every one of them to lock down at least one strikeout. He reached his highest inning pitch count in the fifth with twenty-one. He was taken out after securing two outs in the seventh but giving up a hit and hitting a batter for the second time in the process. He was dominant. He basically went on autopilot and cruised. It was awesome. I think we all knew he had it in him somewhere. The question again becomes where it came from. Like I said, I have no idea. But this outing just lowered his ERA opposite Baltimore to 2.89, meaning that he pitches better against Baltimore than he does against any other team. (Technically that doesn’t say much, but still.)
We didn’t score until the fifth. Alfredo Simon’s command and control had been consistently weakening as the game progressed, and at that point we just broke through for good. Scutaro flied out to begin the inning. Then Ellsbury tripled. Pedroia reached base and advanced to second on a fielder’s choice while Ellsbury was out at home. Gonzalez was intentionally walked, and then Youk knocked a double off the Monster, which brought in Pedroia and moved Gonzalez to third. Papi was intentionally walked despite the fact that he grounded into a double play with the bases loaded and one out in the first, and both Gonzalez and Youk scored on a rocket of a double by Reddick. Salty grounded out to end the inning. Pedroia later led off the seventh with a double and scored on a double by Youk.
Ellsbury went three for four and was a home run shy of hitting for the cycle. Youk and Reddick also each went three for four. Pedroia only had one hit on the day, but it was enough to extend his hitting streak to eleven games.
Bard finished off the seventh and took care of the eighth. Since we scored that fourth run, Paps didn’t find himself in a save situation but pitched solidly anyway. It’s been way too long since we’ve had a starter go deep enough to allow those two to work their usual shifts. The final score was 4-0.
We’re on a five-game winning streak, we’ve won nine of our last ten games, and we’re in first place. Just recently when we were in the middle of a bad run during Interleague, who would have thought we’d be hammering the Orioles to secure a first-place lead before the All-Star break? Baseball is quite a game. Life is good.