ARLINGTON, Texas — Rangers Ballpark in Arlington has always been a weird baseball funhouse for John Lackey.
“I’ve pretty much done everything in this place,” he said. “I’ve pitched good here, I’ve been terrible here, and pretty much everything in between.”
He’s had a start where he struck out 12 Rangers in six innings. He had a start where he gave up nine runs and didn’t last five innings.
Then, there was 2009, when his entire start consisted of two pitches. The first went behind Rangers leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler, and the second hit him in the left side.
“I got knocked out for a different reason,” Lackey joked. “I got asked to leave.”
His relationship with the Rangers and their ballpark is complicated. After scrapping through five innings Saturday night in the Red Sox’ 5-1 loss, Lackey has faced Texas 37 times in 11 big league seasons, more than any other active pitcher, with a mixed bag of results. He’s 7-7 at the ballpark. His 6.14 ERA against the Rangers is his highest against any American League team. In 19 career starts in Arlington, Lackey has a career 6.62 ERA.
When Kinsler smacked Lackey’s first pitch over the fence in left for his sixth home run of the season Saturday night, it seemed like things weren’t going to be any different.
“First pitch of the game, I’ll take my chances on that one,” Lackey said. “I’m going to throw a strike in there. Nine out of 10 times, if a guy swings on the first pitch, it’s usually good for you.”
But Lackey, starting just his second game since returning from the disabled list with a right biceps strain, wound up weaving one of his more solid outings in Arlington, allowing three runs on six hits with four strikeouts against three walks.
In his three previous starts at Rangers Ballpark he had given up 17 runs on 18 hits.
Outside of the home run to Kinsler, he said he felt comfortable working through the early innings, locating his fastball well. He threw 98 pitches, 61 for strikes.
“He gave us everything he had,”said Sox manager John Farrell. “Given the stuff that he had, I thought it was consistent with his last outing in Houston. He was able to get to 100 pitches, but [against] a little bit deeper lineup that drove the pitch count up there. But [he] kept us in the lineup through the five innings of work.”