Lackey has won his team over

Victories coming with gritty efforts

By Robert Mays
Globe Correspondent / June 18, 2010

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It was plodding at times and never remarkable, but it was another win. And although John Lackey has yet to consistently show the stuff that got him $82.5 million from the Red Sox last winter, he’s winning, and that’s enough for him.

Lackey went six innings and gave up four runs (three earned) in last night’s 8-5 victory over the Diamondbacks at Fenway Park. An unspectacular outing — 112 pitches and only five strikeouts — but manager Terry Francona said that despite Lackey’s occasional struggles, he is consistently finding a way.

“He just didn’t finish off some hitters, had some deep counts,’’ Francona said. “Saying that, they were never able to score more than one in an inning. He just has a way of managing the game and competing.’’

The Sox once again provided Lackey with hearty run support. Boston is averaging 7.88 runs per game in Lackey’s eight wins, more than two runs over the Sox’ season scoring average.

“It’s been nice,’’ Lackey said. “It hasn’t always been that way in my career.’’

The wins are piling up for the 31-year-old righthander, but almost all of Lackey’s other numbers have fallen short of his career averages. His ERA is 4.53; he hasn’t finished a season with an ERA above 4 since 2004. Lackey’s strikeouts are also down this year — 4.9 per nine innings compared with 7.1 for his career — but he stressed that the stat he’s worried about most is the one that matters in the standings.

“Strikeouts are nice, but they’re good for a free agent year,’’ Lackey said. “I’m not going to be doing that for a while. I’m here to win.’’

So far, he’s done just that. At 8-3, Lackey is on pace to win more than 14 games for just the second time in his career, and Francona said Lackey’s brand of competitiveness was part of the plan.

“We’ve said all along, if you run a good pitcher out there every night, that’s part of what we’re trying to do,’’ Francona said.

While Francona knows Lackey hasn’t been his best, he feels that a stretch of stellar outings is on the horizon. For now, the wins are enough.

“I think he’s going to get into a situation where he reels off a lot of zeroes,’’ Francona said. “In the meantime, he just keeps competing.’’

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