Lackey proves more than a little bit lucky

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / May 11, 2010

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John Lackey has allowed six or more earned runs 26 times in his career. Last night was only the second time he emerged the winning pitcher.

An uncharacteristic outing for Lackey turned into a successful one for the Red Sox as he managed to get through six innings in a 7-6 victory over the Blue Jays.

“Tonight the boys took care of me, man,’’ the righthander said. “It’s all about the bullpen and the offense tonight. We won kind of despite me.’’

Not necessarily. Lackey put six consecutive batters on base to open the second inning, issuing two walks and allowing four hits. The Blue Jays scored four runs as they sent nine batters to the plate.

Lackey didn’t record an out until the seventh batter of the inning, Aaron Hill, grounded into a force play.

But Lackey allowed only two more runs, a long two-run homer to left field by Jose Bautista in the fifth inning.

In an odd way, it takes a good pitcher to give up that many runs and still win. Manager Terry Francona had faith that Lackey (4-1) could figure a way out of the mess and resisted the urge to go to the bullpen early.

“I think sometimes the linescore can be deceiving,’’ Francona said. “When you give up runs early, you can run to the bullpen and maybe sometimes it looks like we should. But if you get there that early, that’s a hard way to win. With a veteran pitcher who knows how to pitch and compete, he reeled it back in. It was impressive. We were happy.’’

By going six innings and leaving with a one-run lead, Lackey allowed the Red Sox to use Hideki Okajima, Daniel Bard, and Jonathan Papelbon for an inning each to finish the Jays off. The trio combined to allow only one base runner.

Lackey’s effort also saved the bullpen for tonight, a distinct possibility with the often erratic Daisuke Matsuzaka getting the start.

“You definitely never want to tax the bullpen too much,’’ Lackey said. “I guess it was nice that I at least got through six. We were in line with Oki and Bard and Pap. Those guys were outstanding tonight.’’

Lackey finished with an ugly line: eight hits, six earned runs, three walks, and six strikeouts. It was not unlike his start for the Los Angeles Angels against the Cleveland Indians July 23, 2008, when he allowed six runs on eight hits over five innings but was the winning pitcher in a 14-11 game.

“I don’t remember that game,’’ Lackey said. “I try and forget the bad ones. In those games, all you can try and do is go as deep as you can and give your team some kind of chance to get the win. You just have to try and hold the other guys down. It’s not easy because you obviously don’t have your best stuff.’’

As Lackey persevered, the Red Sox were busy scoring six runs against Toronto starter Brandon Morrow and what proved to be the winning run against Josh Roenicke in the third inning.

“Overall I thought [Lackey] did a great job,’’ catcher Victor Martinez said. “He got a lot better [after the second inning]. He was able to settle down. He was able to pound the corners and got some strikes and painted the inside corner against righthanders.

“He gave us a great chance to come back and win the game.’’

Peter Abraham can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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