Lackey labors in Philly, saddled with loss

Lackey labors in Philly, saddled with loss

PHILADELPHIA -- The Red Sox played in a National League venue on Friday night for the first time in 2010, but their opponent felt all too much like what they are accustomed to in the American League East.

  • 134 wins
  • 118 wins

At a time when John Lackey is in a bit of a rut from a command standpoint, he had the bad timing of running into a team that only exacerbates such issues. Lackey opened Boston's Interleague slate by throwing 107 pitches and walking five on a night his team suffered a 5-1 loss to the two-time defending NL champion Phillies.

"You know, like we knew they would, they make every pitcher work," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "They have guys that are willing to go deep in the count to try to get ahead. There's a reason there as good as they are offensively. Again, they're almost like an American League team. I don't mean that as a slight to the National League. From [Nos.] 1-8 [in the lineup] and tonight [Nos.] 1-9, they give you good at-bats. You let them get their arms extended, they hit for some power. They've got a lot of good hitters."

Two of their best are Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth. And both of them went deep against Lackey in this one -- Werth's mammoth two-run blast in the fifth the game-changer.

"I gave up the one homer that probably doesn't go out anywhere but here and the one that goes out of pretty much anywhere," said Lackey. "Honestly, not good enough to win tonight. But the pitch to Werth is really pretty much all I would take back. The rest of it, a break here or there and it could have been a lot different."

Lackey gave up six hits and four runs, turning in a less-than-stellar start for the third consecutive outing. Over those three starts, Lackey has given up 17 hits, 15 runs and 12 walks over 18 innings.

The righty is 4-3 with a 5.06 ERA in his first nine starts for the Red Sox. Just like that, Boston's modest three-game winning streak came to an end.

"The consistency of command has not been game to game as he would expect or everyone else," said Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell. "His check points are clearly to have him stay over the rubber a little bit longer to allow his arm swing to catch up and be able to particularly throw the ball to his glove side or down to right-handers. His delivery is rather simple and yet the execution of it has not been quite as he's shown from outing to outing. It's a matter of continuing to work and refining and repeating the checkpoints of his delivery to command the baseball."

Despite the so-so night for Lackey, the Red Sox tried to mount a dramatic comeback in the ninth. Adrian Beltre got hit by a pitch to load the bases with two outs and Francona sent up David Ortiz to pinch-hit for Bill Hall.

Ortiz belted a 1-2 fastball from Phillies lefty J.C. Romero to deep center, but before you could say "game-tying grand slam," the bid landed on the warning track and into the glove of Shane Victorino to end the game.

"We had a chance to tie the game, so we gave it a shot," Francona said. "He took a real good swing. We had a chance, so we took it."

Did Ortiz think it had a shot?

"Always," Ortiz said.

The loss dropped the Red Sox to 22-21, keeping them 8 1/2 games behind the Rays in the AL East.

Victor Martinez got Boston off to a promising start, belting a solo homer to left with two outs in the first. The switch-hitting catcher has eight hits in his past 12 at-bats.

"I never lost my confidence, even when I was hitting .200 or .190. I never lost my confidence," Martinez said. "Like I say, it's not the first time it's happened to me. I've been able to get out of it. That's what makes me keep working hard."

Unfortunately, Martinez's blast -- his sixth of the year -- wound up being the only truly impactful swing Boston had all night.

"I wish we had three men on when he hit it," Francona said. "We didn't have a lot of baserunners. But he took a good swing."

From there, Phillies starter Cole Hamels pretty much dominated the Red Sox. The lefty gave up just three hits and a run over seven innings, walking one and striking out eight.

"He did a great job tonight," Martinez said of Hamels. "He was throwing pretty hard. He was throwing around 93, 94 [mph], and he was mixing that with a great changeup. He was using both sides of the plate with his fastball and even with his changeup. He just kept us off-balanced all night."

Lackey exited in a 4-1 hole and the Red Sox called on Joe Nelson, who was promoted from Triple-A Pawtucket earlier this week, to pitch the sixth.

With two on and two outs, Howard hit a ground single to left and Hall's throw to the plate was not in time to get Juan Castro, who entered as a pinch-runner for Jimmy Rollins.

Lackey's next start will be on Wednesday against another tough opponent -- the Rays.

"I haven't pitched my best by any means, but it's been multiple things kind of going on," Lackey said. "It's been a little tough luck here and there and lack of execution a little bit, too."

But the big righty did not sound worried.

"I've been around long enough," Lackey said. "I'll figure it out."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.