Lackey: 'Shock when this happens'

April, 3, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas -- This is what happens when you leave too many pitches up in the strike zone: Seven extra-base hits, including Adrian Beltre's grand slam, no ground balls, and an early shower after a yield of nine runs.

"I expect to do well every time I pitch,'' John Lackey said after his first start of 2011 was a dud, a 12-5 loss to the Texas Rangers in which he was knocked out when seven straight batters reached, six of them scoring, after there were two outs and nobody on in the fourth inning. "It’s a shock when something like this happens.''
[+] EnlargeJohn Lackey
AP Photo/LM OteroJohn Lackey allowed 9 runs in 3 2/3 innings, including Adrian Beltre's grand slam in the fourth.

Not so shocking is that it would happen against the Rangers. Lackey is 11-13 with a 6.07 ERA in 34 starts against the Rangers, whom he used to face regularly when he was with the Angels. That's his highest ERA against any opponent, and it's worse when he's pitching in The Ballpark in Arlington: 6-6, 6.78 ERA.

And the beatings are getting worse: Since the start of the 2008 season, Lackey is 2-5 with an 8.39 ERA against the Rangers, who are hitting .369 with 10 home runs in that span.

"They've always had good lineup,'' Lackey said. "I made the first start of my career here, and they had a few Hall of Famers in that lineup. They’ve always had a pretty tough lineup.''

Maybe instead of slotting Josh Beckett against the Indians in Cleveland as a way to better his chances of a good start, Sox manager Terry Francona might have been better served limiting Lackey to the role of spectator in his native Texas (Abilene). Instead, Francona had rewarded Lackey by making him the team's No. 2 starter, citing the way he came to camp in peak shape and his outstanding spring.

"Just didn't close things out,'' said Lackey, whose night began just like Jon Lester's afternoon did the day before, with a home run by Ian Kinsler, the Rangers' second baseman making history by becoming the first player ever to hit leadoff home runs in each of his first two games.

Kinsler's double in the third triggered a three-run rally, Elvis Andrus following with a triple to the gap and Josh Hamilton flaring a single. By that point, the Rangers already had hit for the cycle (single, double, triple, homer) against Lackey.

They would do so again in the fourth, which turned to dust after Lackey retired Nelson Cruz on a liner and Mitch Moreland on a flyball for two quick outs. Yorvit Torrealba doubled on a ball that center-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury just missed running down in right center, and Julio Borbon, after getting a reprieve on a borderline two-strike pitch, lined a triple down the right-field line. Kinsler walked, Lackey left a pitch up to Elvis Andrus that he rocketed to left-center for a double, and Lackey then intentionally walked Josh Hamilton, who has worn him out, to load the bases.

Dan Wheeler was warming up in the bullpen when Lackey made his worst pitch of the night, a 1-and-0 fastball that Beltre crushed, driving it into the left-field seats for a slam.

"I definitely missed over the plate with a fastball," Lackey said. "It probably wasn't the right pitch or the right location, honestly."

That was hardly the only mistake by Lackey, not that he was eager to enumerate the others. His next scheduled start is the home opener, Friday against the Yankees.

"Two games, you can't get too crazy,'' he said. "It's not what we wanted to get off to, personally and as a team.

"Wipe this one away, and go back to work.''

Gordon Edes

ESPN Staff Writer



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