ANAHEIM -- John Lackey truly knew he was not at home anymore when he was greeted by a chorus of boos upon taking the mound for the bottom of the first inning on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium. It was the first time Lackey stood on that mound wearing road grays after spending the previous eight seasons of his career with the Angels. In truth, Lackey wasn't looking for hugs or cheers in his return to Anaheim. He just wanted a win, and that's exactly what he got after firing 7 1/3 strong innings against his former team.
The Red Sox rode Lackey, a clutch two-out double by Jed Lowrie in the seventh and an Adrian Beltre RBI in the eighth to a 4-2 victory. "I mean, you know, nobody wants to get booed like that," said Lackey. "[The] scoreboard talks the loudest." At a point in their season where every game is crucial, the Red Sox stayed five games behind the Rays in the Wild Card standings while slicing their American League East deficit to the Yankees down to seven games. "We just need to win games right now," Lackey said. "We're in a tough division. We need to try and stay close and hope to get some of the troops back." By the narrowest of margins, Lackey outdueled his good friend and former teammate Jered Weaver. Lackey also defeated the Angels at Fenway on May 5. "Weav is the man," said Lackey. "Weave's really come into his own and really had a tremendous year. He was great last year, he's really put it together and he is one of the top pitchers in the game." Weaver has the same amount of respect for Lackey. He just wished the Angels' fans still did as well. "The ovation wasn't quite what I thought it would be," Weaver said. "This guy's done a lot for the organization for eight years. It's very disappointing people didn't understand." After being stifled by Weaver over the first six innings, the Red Sox started their first fruitful rally of the night in the seventh on a two-out walk by Darnell McDonald, who was a last-minute insertion into the lineup when J.D. Drew was scratched with a sore left hamstring. Marco Scutaro ripped a single up the middle and McDonald bolted to third. Up stepped Lowrie, who scorched Weaver's 1-1 pitch over the head of left fielder Juan Rivera for a two-run double. Suddenly, Boston's 1-0 deficit was a 2-1 lead. Rivera, who isn't known for his defense, appeared to get a bad break on the ball. "I knew I hit it well," said Lowrie. "After you hit it, there's not much you can do, so if it got over his head, it got over his head. I knew I hit it well." Beltre drove in the deciding run in the eighth, hammering a double to the gap in left-center that scored David Ortiz all the way from first. "I'm an athlete, man. I'm a speed killer, whenever I feel like it," quipped Ortiz. The Angels struck for a run against Lackey in the third, getting a two-out, RBI double off the wall in right by Bobby Abreu. Meanwhile, Weaver was looking primed to make 1-0 lead stand up. The Red Sox didn't get a leadoff man on base until the fifth, when McDonald belted a double. McDonald was able to move to third on a flyout to center by Scutaro. But Lowrie (popup) and Kevin Youkilis (groundout) couldn't get the run home. They stayed at it though, and the hits finally started coming in the late innings. Who knows how the rest of the game might have unfolded if Rivera could have caught that liner off the bat of Lowrie. "It got away from me in the seventh," Weaver said. "One pitch happened to get over Juan's head." And that was just the break Lackey needed to silence the same fans that used to roar for him every fifth day. "I enjoyed winning, absolutely," said Lackey. But the boos? "That won't be forgotten, for sure," said Lackey. The big news for the Red Sox as far as Lackey is concerned is that he's on a roll, going 1-0 with a 1.61 ERA in three starts since the All-Star break. "I just think the sharpness of his pitches is really good," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "All along, we've said that regardless of what he has, he's going to get you deep into a game and you'll have a chance to win. But I also think he has the ability to run off some games like he has." Nobody knows that better than the team Lackey beat Tuesday night.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.