Sox cheered by this victory
Lackey rebounds, dominates Orioles
Rare has been the occurrence when John Lackey has departed the pitcher’s mound at Fenway Park to a rousing chorus of cheers. Even more rare than that, to a standing ovation.
Boos? Lackey knows all about them.
He was inundated as he made his way off the field following his last outing on the Fourth of July, when he gave up seven runs in 2 1/3 innings in a 9-7 loss to the Blue Jays.
But as he walked off in the seventh inning of the Red Sox’ 4-0 win over the Orioles, head bowed after he handed over a three-run lead to Daniel Bard for safe keeping, Lackey was showered with adulation and treated to an honest-to-goodness standing O from the crowd of 38,205.
Lackey (6-8, 6.84 ERA) snapped a personal three-game losing skid to help the Sox win their fifth in a row and ninth in their last 10 to remain a game ahead of the Yankees in the American League East.
“I was glad,’’ manager Terry Francona said of the crowd’s reaction. “I think they’ve been dy ing to show their appreciation.’’
It must have made Lackey feel a little like Sally Field during her Best Actress acceptance speech for “Places in the Heart’’ at the 1985 Academy Awards when she blurted out, “I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!’’
But Lackey being Lackey, a man who chooses not to wax poetically about his performances, his take on the standing ovation did not rank as an Oscar-worthy effort.
“It was nice, yeah,’’ was all Lackey had to say.
The ovation was even louder, it seemed, than the one that greeted David Ortiz when he came to the plate with the bases loaded in the first inning. It was a show of support for the Sox slugger after he was ejected from the eighth inning of Friday night’s 10-3 victory for his altercation with Orioles closer Kevin Gregg.
“It was great to see that for [Lackey],’’ said Ortiz, who wound up grounding into a 4-6-3 double play in his first at-bat. “I know this crowd supports me and it makes you want to bust your butt for them.’’
Still, the adulation was well-deserved after Lackey threw 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball, allowing three hits and one walk while ringing up seven strikeouts.
“Yeah, I think he’s had it rough, definitely a rough year,’’ said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “But to his credit, he keeps coming out there and pounding. He never complains and never says anything. He just goes out there and lets the chips fall. I’m glad he was able to go out there tonight and pitch like he knows he can.’’
Lackey hit two batters (drawing a warning from plate umpire Jeff Nelson when he plunked Derrek Lee in the seventh), had two wild pitches, and allowed only one batter to reach second base - and that was in the first inning.
Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy hit a leadoff single to left, then advanced to second on a wild pitch before being stranded as Lackey retired the next three.
So what was the difference between this outing and his last?
“I guess I was locating a little bit better, but, honestly, not a whole lot,’’ said Lackey, who consistently stayed ahead in the count. “The velocity felt about the same. I told you my arm felt pretty good the other day, so hopefully, I’ll keep it going.’’
Kevin Youkilis, who was added late Friday night to the AL All-Star team as a replacement for the injured Alex Rodriguez, led the 10-hit assault by going 3 for 4 with a pair of RBI doubles.
In winning the first three games of this series, the Red Sox, who will send rookie Kyle Weiland to the mound today for his major league debut in the finale, have outscored the Orioles, 24-7, while collecting 18 extra-base hits (8 homers, 8 doubles, and 2 triples).
“[Youkilis] came up with two really big hits,’’ said Adrian Gonzalez, who was intentionally walked in front of Youkilis in the fifth. “The first one to score our first run and the second one to score an insurance run. He’s had a great year and he’s steadily going back to his career norm.’’
Youkilis’s first RBI double, a shot to left in the fifth inning, scored Dustin Pedroia from second to give the Sox a 1-0 lead. After Ortiz was intentionally walked, Josh Reddick drove in two more runs with a scorched double down the right-field line, chasing Baltimore starter Alfredo Simon.
In the seventh, Youkilis ripped his second RBI double to right to score Pedroia, whose double to left extended his hitting streak to 11 games.
Asked how this outing, coming just before the All-Star break, might serve him once the second half begins, Lackey seemed to be at a loss for words.
“I don’t know,’’ he said. “My arm is feeling better, feeling strong. So I can only guarantee you that I’m going to work hard and I’m going to compete hard.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.