While the 2014 Red Sox season has hardly resembled the 2013 championship season, two things remain consistent with last year.
For one, the Red Sox avoided a fourth straight loss Monday night, beating the Texas Rangers, 5-1, at Fenway Park. Secondly, John Lackey continues to be a stalwart in the starting rotation.
The Red Sox never lost more than three games in a row in 2013. They were swept by the Milwaukee Brewers over the weekend, but stopped their skid at three games behind Lackey and Jackie Bradley Jr., who started in right field and supplied three hits and two RBIs.
“It’s just a number,” said manager John Farrell about avoiding a fourth straight loss. “We’re looking to go out and win every game. The last three games didn’t go the way we wanted, but we were able to execute very well tonight.”
While Bradley got the key hits — including a bunt single in the eighth that led to Boston’s third run — the Red Sox continued to struggle with runners in scoring position, going 4 for 13 with 11 runners left on base.
The Rangers mustered very little against Lackey, who went seven innings and allowed five hits and one unearned run.
Lackey threw 65 of his 95 pitches for strikes, mostly with a fastball (in the 92-94-mile-per-hour range) that he used to challenge hitters.
“I had to make tough pitches to get out of the jam,” said Lackey, referring to a first-and-third situation in the seventh with the Sox holding a 2-1 lead. “But I got it done. I threw a lot of fastballs, challenging guys, trying to get ahead on the count. A.J. [Pierzynski] called a great game for me tonight again.”
Lackey seems to be working in lockstep with Pierzynski, whose passed ball in the fourth contributed to the Rangers scoring their only run.
“I definitely want to throw strikes,” Lackey said. “If you’re gonna get me, get me quick, because I’m coming at you.’’
We are no longer watching the remaking of John Lackey. This is the real Lackey, a bona fide No. 2 starter.
The Tommy John surgery he had following the 2011 season is a distant memory. As Farrell pointed out, Lackey has reshaped his career, his body, and his life.
“All to the credit of Lackey,” Farrell said. “He’s reshaped himself and his approach to the game. He set out to turn around the perception of him the first couple of years, came back from Tommy John and he knew he had to do it first with his performance on the field.”
Chris Capuano pitched a scoreless eighth, getting Prince Fielder to ground into an inning-ending double play after falling behind in the count, 3 and 0.
The Sox’ three-run rally in the eighth took Koji Uehara out of a save situation. After getting two quick outs, the Rangers put up two hits before Uehara fanned Leonys Martin to end it.
Pierzynski led off the bottom of the eighth with his third hit, a single to center. After Jonathan Herrera walked, Bradley laid down a perfect bunt toward first. He reached when Fielder bobbled the ball, and Pierzynski scored on Fielder’s errant toss to first base.
Daniel Nava knocked in the fourth run with a single to right against Texas reliever Shawn Tolleson. Dustin Pedroia followed with a ground ball to third base. He beat the throw to first to avoid a double play and plate the fifth Red Sox run.
Bradley, who was thrust into the right-field mix with Shane Victorino on the disabled list, also made two superb catches.
He robbed Donnie Murphy of a hit in the second inning, with a runner on second and two outs, when he came in on a liner he lost in the lights but recovered to make the catch. Then in the third, he went back and made a nice running catch on J.P. Arencibia’s smash to the right-field corner.
“I saw it from the start,” Bradley said of the first catch. “I had to get down to get under the lights to pick it back up. Kind of knew where the ball was going to land and [hoping] it came out of the lights.”
On the Arencibia smash, Bradley said, “That’s one of those plays I work at in BP — balls hit over my head. I kind of guess where the ball is going to be. I ran that route and there it was. I got a great jump.”
Bradley, now hitting .375, drove in Xander Bogaerts with a single in the second. Bogaerts singled with one out and Pierzynski executed a hit-and-run single to left. In the fourth, Bradley singled in Pierzynski after back-to-back singles by Pierzynski and Herrera.
Grady Sizemore also had an eventful night, going 2 for 4, knocking into a double play, slamming face-first into the center-field wall on triple by Shin-Shoo Choo, and making a nice diving catch on Mitch Moreland’s sacrifice fly in the fourth.
Farrell continues to be amazed at how hard Sizemore plays. He said Sizemore emerged from his bump with the wall all right.