Problem area: Sox’ Lackey rocked again
TORONTO — John Lackey had just suffered his third defeat in as many starts, allowing nine runs on nine hits and five walks, in last night’s hideous 9-3 loss to the Blue Jays before a Rogers Centre crowd of 19,163.
The postgame inquisition in front of his locker was drawing to a close when a clearly frustrated and agitated Lackey, who had dropped to 2-5 (8.01 ERA), concluded his terse remarks rather awkwardly, blurting, “Everything in my life [expletive] right now, to be honest with you.’’
The statement hung in the air like the last of the 118 pitches he threw, an 82-mile-per-hour slider John McDonald smacked down the line in left for a two-run double. It was the crowning blow of Lackey’s meltdown in a five-run rally with two out in the seventh inning in which he was charged with all five runs on two hits and three walks.
After the questioning ended, Lackey was approached privately.
“Everything’s fine,’’ he said. “I’m fine. It’s just personal.’’
Whatever issues Lackey was dealing with, they seemed to manifest themselves on the mound, particularly in the seventh, when the Blue Jays extended a 4-3 lead to the final margin.
It ruined a sterling offensive performance by Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz, who hit solo homers in the sixth to rally the Sox within 4-3. They wound up getting seven hits, but none from Jacoby Ellsbury whose 19-game hitting streak was snapped when he went 0 for 4.
“I don’t know what the hell happened tonight,’’ said Lackey, who got lit up in an 11-0 loss to the Angels last Thursday, allowing eight runs on 10 hits and three walks. “I threw the ball way better than I did the last start. I don’t know.’’
Needing Lackey to go deep to save an overtaxed bullpen, the Sox wound up having to use Tim Wakefield, who became the oldest player in club history to play for the team when he was summoned in the sixth. In Lackey’s last three starts, he has allowed 19 earned runs on 26 hits and 12 walks over 16 2/3 innings.
“I’ve never seen him this focused and this determined,’’ said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, when asked if he felt Lackey was at all distracted. “He wanted it. Every inning he was talking to me, feeling good. The last few innings just kind of . . . it happened.’’
Did it finally get to Lackey in the seventh? “I don’t think it got to him,’’ Saltalamacchia said. “He’s the same every time; he’s passionate and he wants to get everybody out. So when he walks someone he gets [ticked]. When he gives up a hit he gets [ticked]. Same as everybody else.’’
After Gonzalez connected twice in Tuesday night’s 10-inning loss to record the 11th multi-homer game of his career, he put the Sox on the board in the first last night when he doubled to deep center off Jesse Litsch and scored on Kevin Youkilis’s single to left.
Lackey was unable to hold the lead, scuffling in the third and fourth innings, allowing the Jays two runs in each frame.
In the third, Lackey gave up a single to left to Rajai Davis and then walked Yunel Escobar. Corey Patterson rifled a single to right, scoring Davis and sending Escobar to third.
Lackey walked Jose Bautista to load the bases for Juan Rivera, who struck out swinging. But Aaron Hill grounded to third, scoring Escobar to make it 2-1. Lackey got out of the inning when he got J.P. Arencibia to fly to center.
After Litsch struck out Gonzalez, got Youkilis to fly to center, and induced Ortiz to pop to second in the fourth, the Jays tacked on two runs in their half.
McDonald, who went 2 for 4 with 3 RBIs, unloaded on a 2-0 pitch for a homer to the Jays’ bullpen in left that made it 3-1. Then, in what was strangely reminiscent of the winning run the Jays manufactured in the 10th Tuesday night, Davis singled to center, then stole second and third (beating a pair of strong throws from Saltalamacchia).
Escobar then launched a sacrifice fly to center that plated Davis, making it 4-1.
The Sox rallied for a pair in the sixth on the homers by Gonzalez and Ortiz, both of whom also went deep Tuesday night but had their efforts go for naught.
With one out, Gonzalez took Litsch deep to left. After Youkilis grounded to third, Ortiz chased Litsch by blasting a 1-2 pitch into the netting over the visitor’s bullpen in right.
“We get to 4-3, looks like we have a chance,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “And they come out in the seventh and spread it out and it changes the whole game.’’
That’s when it went awry for Lackey, who was sent from the game by McDonald’s two-run double that eluded Youkilis’s outstretched glove at third. Lackey was in full meltdown, throwing his hands up in disgust at the sight of McDonald’s hit bounding down the line in left.
“Everybody’s had success with him in the past,’’ Lackey said, taking a shot at a batter who entered with a .158 lifetime average against the big righthander. “You can’t give up hits like that to him when you have other guys in that lineup who can hurt you.’’
The Sox, who dropped to 17-20, will take today off, then regroup for a three-game series in New York with the Yankees starting tomorrow night.
“Right now, it doesn’t matter who we play, we’re trying to find our way out of this,’’ second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “We want to be a lot better than everyone shows, that’s obvious. Everyone cares.’’
Asked if the off day would be a bigger mental or physical break, Pedroia replied, “Both. When you struggle and go through tough losses, it affects you mentally and it beats you up physically, too.
“It wears you down, so it will be good to take a deep breath and start over, man. Just play the game. That’s all we’ve got to do right now is play, because it’s not going to end like this.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.