|John Lackey made some adjustments to beat the Jays, notching a season-high eight strikeouts. (Mike Cassese/Reuters)|
Breaking out a new strategy
Lackey’s pattern changed vs. Jays
TORONTO — Since joining the Red Sox last year, John Lackey was 1-3 with a 9.40 earned run average in five starts against the Blue Jays.
In his first start against the Jays this season, May 11, he allowed nine runs over 6 2/3 innings and went on the disabled list five days later.
He returned to the Rogers Centre mound yesterday armed with some new ideas about how to pitch to the Toronto hitters. After watching video of his previous starts, Lackey noticed he had fallen into predictable patterns with how he sequenced pitches.
“There were definitely some adjustments,’’ Lackey said after allowing four runs over six innings in a 16-4 victory.
Lackey allowed six hits, walked two, and struck out eight, his season high. In his second start since coming off the disabled list, he threw 112 pitches.
Lackey (4-5) has allowed seven earned runs over 11 2/3 innings in those two starts. That’s not particularly good, but it’s an improvement over the 8.01 ERA he had previously.
“I thought he was down, he threw some breaking balls that made them miss, he got some fastballs by them,’’ manager Terry Francona said.
Lackey, pitching with the benefit of great run support, held the Jays to two runs over the first five innings. He gave up a two-run home run by Edwin Encarnacion in the sixth. But the Sox had the game well in hand by that point.
Lackey worked well with catcher Jason Varitek, who reminded him several times to keep his front shoulder closed and maintain a consistent delivery.
“Got to give Tek a lot of credit, man. The way he called the game made it pretty easy on me. I think I shook once all day,’’ Lackey said.
“I felt good. I felt like it’s a step forward. I’m still building some arm strength. I feel like I’m going in the right direction.’’
Pedroia power Dustin Pedroia missed Thursday’s game in New York when he traveled to Boston to get his right knee examined. Cleared to play, he is 6 of 9 since with four RBIs and two walks.
Pedroia had an RBI double in the fourth and a two-run double in the eighth. His batting average is up to .263.
Pedroia was fearful of needing surgery to repair some torn cartilage in his knee. Getting diagnosed with only a bruise under his kneecap was a relief.
“I just think knowing Pedey like we do, we all know he can deal with pain or hurt. But I think the idea that he’s not hurting himself [more] really cleared his head a lot,’’ Francona said.
Pedroia reached base seven consecutive times before grounding into a force in the fifth inning.
Scutaro connects Marco Scutaro is 8 of 20 since coming off the disabled list. He was 4 for 6 yesterday with three runs and an RBI. He will start at shortstop today, Francona said.
Scutaro’s return also gives the Sox the option of giving Pedroia extra rest when needed.
“It’s huge for us,’’ Francona said. “It’s hard not to have Pedey in the lineup because he’s so good. But because we have Scoot, we feel like we can play him at second. It’s really good. This will really help us.’’
Bautista quieted Toronto slugger Jose Bautista is 1 for 7 in the series. He has gone 13 games and 48 at-bats since his last home run . . . Adrian Gonzalez got a little break when Drew Sutton played the last three innings at first base. Gonzalez has played all but 15 innings in the field this season. He also has driven in a run in eight consecutive games, a career best . . . The Sox have won 19 of their last 25 games on the road . . . Jacoby Ellsbury has hit safely in 15 of the last 16 games at 28 of 70 (.400) with 11 RBIs . . . Injured prospects Ryan Kalish (shoulder) and Yamaico Navarro (oblique) have rejoined Triple A Pawtucket for workouts and are expected to start rehab assignments with Single A Lowell next week.
Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com.