But the veteran has rebounded in a big way and has been one of Boston's most consistent starters of late. In his last nine starts, Lackey is 7-1 with a 4.11 ERA.
Yes, he has been blessed with a lot of run support, and the numbers haven't exactly been dazzling. But at a time when other starters have gone down with injuries, Lackey has been keeping his team in just about every game he pitches.
The latest was Tuesday night, when he fired 6 2/3 innings in beating one of the toughest offenses in baseball, the Texas Rangers, 11-5.
Lackey scattered seven hits and four runs, walking three and striking out five.
"I felt pretty good," Lackey said. "My stuff's been feeling good the last month or so and this is a tough place to pitch. To get away with a win is nice."
Clay Buchholz hasn't thrown a pitch for the Red Sox since June 16. Daisuke Matsuzaka's season ended on May 16. That has made it all the more important for Lackey to get back on track.
"Huge," said manager Terry Francona. "The consistency. When you know what you're going to get, it's been great. This is Lackey. It took us a while, but again, his ERA is higher, and it will probably be that way. But it doesn't mean we don't have the pitcher we want."
There is a clear bounce in Lackey's step these days. After making a nice defensive play and starting a 1-4-3 double play to end the sixth inning, Lackey pumped his fist.
He has always been a better pitcher the second half of the season, and has a reputation of coming up big in October.
"Beyond [the regular season] is a lot of fun," Lackey said. "But you can't get too far ahead of yourself. I'm feeling pretty good right now. Just stay grinding. Get my workouts in and whenever it's my time to start, get out there and get after it."