In the first game of Saturday’s Red Sox-Orioles doubleheader at Fenway, Jon Lester pitched eight solid innings, Jonathan Herrera hit the game-winning single, Jonny Gomes scored the game-winning run, and manager John Farrell watched contentedly. Jon, Jonathan, Jonny, and John — all different variations of a name that fueled the Sox’ 3-2 win.
Later, in the nightcap, John Lackey (9-6, 3.84) started for the Sox, hoping to replicate the success that his namesakes had hours earlier.
He did, to an extent — throwing what he called his best pitching arsenal of the season. But he missed on a few mistakes that sparked the Orioles’ potent offense to a 7-4 win.
“About as good of stuff I’ve had all year,” Lackey said after the game in a subdued clubhouse. “Still trying to figure out what happened, honestly. I don’t know how I gave up five runs, to be honest with you. You got to give their guys a lot of credit, man. Tough lineup. Made a couple mistakes, and they hit a couple balls out of the park.
“Felt great tonight, man,” he added later. “I’ll take my chances with that stuff most nights.”
Lackey pitched 5⅓ innings, allowing five runs on 10 hits with 11 strikeouts. His 120 pitches were a season high, and his performance was also notable: The 11 strikeouts are the most ever for a Sox pitcher in fewer than six innings, and tied his season high.
“I think overall, he had very good stuff,” Farrell said. “A lot of swing-and-miss to his fastball and his breaking ball alike. High number of strikeouts runs his pitch count up there, and because he does throw so many strikes, he’s around the plate, and I think over the last three or four starts, the long ball has been mixed in a little bit more.”
In his last start at Fenway, on June 18 against the Minnesota Twins, Lackey allowed three hits in nine shutout innings in a game won by the Red Sox in 10.
That Lackey said he had better pitches than that start is telling, and until Orioles catcher Nick Hundley took his 91 mile-per-hour fastball over the center-field wall for a two-run home run in the fourth inning, he held Baltimore scoreless.
“Because he throws a lot of strikes, it’s not uncommon for those types of pitchers to see some home runs in their linescore,” Farrell said of Lackey, who gave up another homer, to Nelson Cruz, in the fifth inning. “Not just on a given night, but opposing hitters know that he’s going to be on the plate. But because he is on the plate so often, he’s usually been very efficient, worked deep into games, which has been the trait of John Lackey this year.”
In the third inning, Lackey worked out of a jam. With two on and two out, Orioles first baseman Chris Davis approached the plate, his team threatening to take an early lead.
Lackey fanned him on three pitches. The crowd erupted.
In the sixth inning, though, Baltimore’s bats came alive once more. Lackey struck out Hundley, then allowed a single to Jonathan Schoop and walked Nick Markakis. His pitch count at 120, his night was over. Burke Badenhop gave up three straight hits and the Orioles turned a one-run deficit into a three-run lead.
“He goes into the sixth inning with a lead, and then they bunch some hits together,” Farrell said. “And unfortunately we come away on the down side.”
Cruz, who had a career-high five hits, drove in one of those sixth-inning runs and is still in Lackey’s bad graces.
Asked about the player who’s tied for the AL lead with 27 home runs, Lackey said, “I’m not even going to comment on him. I’ve got nothing to say about him. There’s things that I would like to say, but I’m not going to.”