It was a much improved John Lackey the Yankees faced Wednesday night at Fenway Park. After Lackey gave up a career-high four home runs against the Bronx Bombers April 12 to suffer his first loss of the season following a 2-0 start, the lanky righthander hardly gave an inch as the Red Sox pinned the Yankees with a 5-1 loss before a crowd of 37,015.
“Honestly, the one in New York I definitely missed some locations and didn’t pitch very well,’’ said Lackey, whose first setback of the season led to another last Friday, an 8-4 setback against Baltimore in the opener of this seven-game homestand.
“I thought my last [outing] could have been a lot better, considering a few little things. But I didn’t make too crazy of an adjustment. There was just a little more of a mix with my pitches a little bit earlier on and that was probably about it.’’
Lackey submitted his best performance of the season, going eight innings and allowing one run on seven hits while striking out 11 and walking none. It was the most strikeouts by a Boston starter against the Yankees since Sept. 11, 2005, when Tim Wakefield fanned 12 in New York.
“He was outstanding,’’ manager John Farrell said of Lackey. “We staked him to an early [2-0] lead and he made a number of big pitches, particularly when men [were] on. [He threw] a lot of strikes, pitched ahead in the count. Had very good fastball location. Much more consistent curveball. More than anything, it was his ability to stay out of the middle of the plate.’’
And the best part about it all?
Unlike his counterpart, Michael Pineda, who was ejected with two outs in the second inning for using a foreign substance, Lackey did not require a single smear of pine tar to do the trick, throwing a season-high 111 pitches (84 strikes) in chilly conditions with great command and location.
“There was definitely a part of the plan to kind of slow them down a little bit,’’ Lackey said. “Not throw too many things around the same velocity . . . I was fortunate enough to be able to hit the corners more times than not and A.J. [Pierzynski] called a good game, so we had a good mix going. It wasn’t like I was throwing one pitch for a strike. We were able to mix it up and that helps.’’
Lackey’s approach flummoxed Mark Teixeira, who entered the game hitting .315 for his career against the righthander.
Hitting out of the No. 6 spot in Joe Girardi’s lineup, Teixeira went 0 for 4 with four strikeouts, fanning in his first three trips to the plate against Lackey, who needed just 10 pitches to do the job.
“I was fortunate to execute some pitches tonight,’’ Lackey said. “He’s a great hitter. I mean, sometimes you get them, sometimes they get you. Honestly, the last pitch I struck him out on, I missed my location by about three feet. He swung and missed it, so I kind of got lucky on that one.’’
At no time, however, did Lackey allow himself to think he had succeeded in getting inside of Teixeira’s head. “No, he’s too good for me to get into his head, I think,’’ Lackey said.
Lackey (3-2) said he wasn’t concerned by the delay in the second inning.
“The Yankees’ lineup is plenty to think about, they’re really good,’’ Lackey said.