BOSTON (CBS) - It wasn’t too long ago that there were cries to run John Lackey out of town.
Now, he’s getting standing ovations as he walks off the mound at Fenway.
“I’m going out and pitching well, I think that’s all they want to see,” Lackey said of the reception he received from the Fenway faithful after tossing eight stellar innings in a 4-1 win over the Padres on Tuesday night.
Lackey allowed just one run off six hits against the Padres, improving to 6-5 on the season and lowering his ERA to 2.81 – the sixth-lowest in the American League.
The right-hander now has wins in four of his last five outings, and has gone seven innings or more in each of those starts. He’s allowed two runs or less in seven of his last nine outings.
“He’s on a great roll,” manager John Farrell said of Lackey. “The last three outings it looks like his arm-strength continues to build. We’re seeing some velocities on the board we haven’t seen in a while. It was an outstanding performance for him.”
Game Preview: Lester Hopes To Continue Recent Success Against Padres
Lackey was in complete control throughout the evening, facing four batters or fewer in all but two of his eight innings. He retired the side in order in the first and sixth, allowing his only run of the night on a Jesus Guzman solo home run to lead off the seventh. The only time he ran into trouble was in the fifth, when San Diego led things off with a double and single to put runners on first and third with no outs. But Lackey promptly got former Red Sox utility man Pedro Ciriaco to ground into a fielder’s choice, Logan Forsy to foul out to first, and Chris Denorfia to line out to second to end the threat.
Tuesday night was Lackey’s 10th quality start of the year (going six or more innings, allowing three or fewer earned runs), tying him with the injured Clay Buchholz for most on the team.
Lackey came to Boston with high expectations after signing a five-year, $80 million contract in 2010, but a 26-23 record and 5.26 ERA over his first two seasons — mixed with the overall disappointing results by the team — put him in the cross-hairs for criticism.
After pitching with a heavily damaged elbow in 2011 and missing all of the 2012 season to recover from Tommy John surgery, Lackey was determined to return to the mound as strong as he was during his successful years in Anaheim. That work is now translating into wins for both Lackey and the Red Sox, and he has now become the work-horse on a staff that has seen Jon Lester struggle with consistency and Buchholz struggle to stay on the field.
After all the hard work, the pitcher and his manager alike are happy to see the results on the field.
“As he would admit, it’s a work in progress,” said Farrell. “He recognized things had to change, and it all started with his performance on the mound. The self-commitment he’s made to reshaping himself, this is all based on the work John has put in, and it’s great to see it taking place.”
“There has been a lot of hard work and 18 months of rehab, and work in between starts. My arm feels pretty good right now. It’s fun to let it loose a little bit and not feel anything,” said Lackey.
And now, the fans are pretty pumped about it too.