The weather had been doing its best to get under John Lackey’s skin all week.
First it was the showers in Minnesota.
He was standing on the mound, in his own little zone having thrown six innings of one-run ball.
It had been six years since he had pitched that well that deep into a game.
He wanted to come out for one more inning.
A three-hour rain delay wouldn’t let him.
It was just as ugly in the hours leading up to his start Thursday night against the Indians at Fenway Park.
Persistent showers had the field soaked, the warning track muddy and the start time up in the air.
“The game got pushed back, we didn’t know what time and then they just sprung it on us,” said Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
“We just went out there and got loose.”
The 44-minute delay and conditions did nothing to knock Lackey out of the groove he’s gotten himself into.
He treated the Indians to a platter of fastballs, cutters, and curveballs over seven innings in the Sox’ 8-1 win, ringing up eight strikeouts for the third time this season.
“He’s a pro, man,” Saltalamacchia said.
“He’s been doing it a long, long time. He’s a special breed. He’s a guy that never really complains, never blames anybody else but himself and that’s the kind of guy you want on your team.”
In the process, he cooled off Justin Masterson, one of the hottest pitchers in the league.
Beyond his 7-2 record and 2.83 ERA, Masterson had outdueled both R.A. Dickey and David Price, the reigning Cy Young winners, wins that were symbols of a strong start to the season.
He brought a streak of 19 scoreless innings with him into Thursday’s game, one he stretched with a 1-2-3 first.
In the second, with runners at the corners, Mike Carp brought a streak of almost equal length to the plate, albeit with opposite success. He was 0 for his last 21.
Masterson fed him a slider, one of his best weapons all season, but it hung out over the plate.
With David Ortiz at third after using his newfound set of wheels to tag up on Saltalamacchia’s fly ball to right, Carp was dying to drive him.
His blast over the Red Sox bullpen in right ended up driving in three.
“I knew off the bat I got it,” Carp said.
In April, Carp tagged Masterson for two doubles and a triple.
“Obviously, he see’s Masterson really well, given the two starts he’s had against him,” Sox manager John Farrell said.
But Carp didn’t want to go that far.
“He dominated me in the minor leagues when he was with us and I definitely had my fair share of not success against him,” Carp said.
“To have a few at-bats definitely builds confidence going in next time I face him.”
The 109 pitches Lackey threw were as clear a sign as any of how strong his arm felt 18 months removed from Tommy John surgery.
It was the second time this season that he’s topped 100 pitches. He threw 58 fastballs, 40 for strikes, maxing out at 95 miles per hour. He started 18 of 25 batters with strikes, cruising to his third win of the season.
“I feel like my arm strength is getting better, endurance is getting better, I think it’s going on the right track,” Lackey said.
His fastball hovered around 91 most of the night.
“I think the surprising thing is we haven’t seen the fluctuation in stuff,” said Farrell. “Velocity typically can fluctuate and that hasn’t been the case with John.”
Lackey managed to put out the one fire he faced, in a 27-pitch third inning. With the bases loaded and two outs, he pumped an eye-level, 91-mile-per-hour fastball by Asdrubal Cabrera to end the inning.
He was still sharp deep into the game, fanning Nick Swisher with a 92-mile-per-hour fastball to end a 1-2-3 sixth.
“He had some good intensity tonight, throughout,” Farrell said.
“He gets a big strikeout to end the sixth inning, you could see the emotion. And I think more than anything that says that he’s not thinking about anything that’s taken place in the past either performance-wise or injury-wise and he’s going out and competing at a high level right now.”
The intensity is nothing new, Lackey said.
“That’s been since I was about 12,” he said. “As far as intensity level that’s something that I’ll always have.”
Neither is his effectiveness.
“[When I’ve been] healthy, I’ve been pretty good in this league,” he said.
“That’s not really surprising. I’ve just got to keep working hard and hope things keep going in the right direction.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.