NEW YORK — It started with one hiccup.
John Lackey had strong-armed the first three batters the Yankees ran at him in Saturday’s game, pumping in 94-mile-per-hour fastballs that Brett Gardner and Brian Roberts could only bounce across the infield grass.
The only reason Jacoby Ellsbury got on was because after looking at three heaters from Lackey, he decided to bunt the fourth one down the left side of the infield.
With two outs and Ellsbury on first, Carlos Beltran wasn’t faring much better.
Lackey started him off by shipping a 93-m.p.h. heater down the heart of the plate. When another one whizzed by the edge of the strike zone, up and away, Beltran swatted it foul.
After 14 straight heaters, Lackey decided to mix things up with a couple of thigh-high cutters that Beltran fought off.
But, with Beltran down 0 and 2, it was almost inevitable Lackey would pull his fastball back out of the holster to finish him off.
Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski slid to his left just slightly to set up the target.
But after 14 straight darts, Lackey missed. Beltran didn’t.
The designated hitter blasted it over the Modell’s sign in Yankee Stadium’s right-center field bleachers for a two-run homer.
“Just left it over the plate,” Lackey said. “Wasn’t a very good pitch. One of those I’d like to have back for sure.”
On an afternoon when Lackey was as sharp statistically as he had been in his previous two starts, all of his mistakes seemed to come with a heavy price tag.
By the time the Yankees were done with their 7-4 win, Lackey had been roughed up for a career-high four homers.
Brian McCann and Alfonso Soriano mashed back-to-back homers to start the fourth and McCann circled back in the sixth inning for another two-run blast.
The homers were the first for McCann, who signed a five-year, $85 million deal in the offseason. He and Beltran are two of several new faces in New York’s lineup, but even though the names are different, the potential for power is still the same, Pierzynski said.
“Obviously, they brought, what, three homers today?” Pierzynksi said. “They bring a presence. But the Yankees . . . they’ve always had a lineup that can do damage. The key is you keep them in the ballpark and unfortunately today we didn’t do that.’’
Home runs accounted for nearly half the 10 hits Lackey gave up in his 5⅔ innings. The six earned runs were the most he’s allowed since last September when the Yankees put up seven on him, and the 10 hits allowed were the most since the Yankees cranked out 10 against him last July.Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.