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It certainly wasn’t a pretty outing by any means, but John Lackey worked hard and won his sixth consecutive decision on Friday night in Seattle. Allowing runs in three of the first four innings, Lackey rebounded and the Red Sox bats supported him with three home runs hit off of Seattle rookie starter Blake Beaven, who recorded his second loss of the season to Boston. The Red Sox bullpen escaped occasional late jams and managed to close out the win, increasing the Red Sox lead in the American League East to two full games over the Yankees. The win also improves the Sox to 73-44 for the season, and 5-2 against Seattle.
The lowly Mariners offense came out hacking at Lackey early, scoring twice in the bottom of the first on a two-run single by designated hitter Mike Carp after the first three Seattle batters reached. Lackey recovered however, limiting the damage after a great catch by Jacoby Ellsbury in deep center field by recording the final two outs.
The Sox answered in the next half inning, starting with a solo home run by David Ortiz to straightaway center field. It was Ortiz’s 24th home run of the season and his third of the current road trip, and it cut the Seattle lead in half. Carl Crawford followed the bomb with a single to right field and proceeded to steal second base with Jarrod Saltalamacchia batting. Saltalamacchia then lined a sharply hit ground ball to first base, which took a bad hop and hit Mariners’ first baseman Justin Smoak in the face, fracturing his nose. After a pop out by Josh Reddick with runners on the corners, Mike Aviles tied the game at two with a sacrifice fly.
However the Mariners offense got to Lackey again in the second inning, which began with consecutive singles from the bottom of the lineup. After a pop out from Ichiro Suzuki and a walk to Franklin Gutierrez, rookie second baseman Dustin Ackley singled home another Seattle run. Lackey was clearly showing signs of struggle early on as the Mariners ended up recording ten hits off the Sox pitcher. Seattle tacked on another run in the fourth inning on an RBI double by Mike Carp, giving them a 4-2 lead which starting pitcher Blake Beaven failed to hold.
The Sox again trimmed the Seattle lead to one with another solo home run, this time from shortstop Jed Lowrie, who wasn’t even in the original starting lineup for Boston. A stiff back to Kevin Youkilis originally put Lowrie into the lineup at third base, but when Marco Scutaro was also removed from the lineup due to a stuff back, Lowrie was moved to shortstop and Aviles was placed at third. At this point Beaven was getting hit much harder by the Boston lineup and was showing signs of struggle, while Lackey looked stronger as the game progressed with a great curveball throughout the outing. As always, it seems Lackey managed to pitch well enough to keep the Sox in the game.
His efforts were rewarded in the sixth, when Reddick followed a leadoff single by Saltalamacchia with a two-run blast to right field, turning a one run deficit into a one run lead. Entering the game, Beaven had only allowed three home runs all season, yet yielded three bombs to the Sox on the night. On the other side, Lackey recorded a quick 1-2-3 inning to get the Boston offense back on the field, where Ortiz chased Beaven from the game with an RBI single to score Adrian Gonzalez, who had two hits to raise his godly average to .350 for the year.
The Red Sox bullpen helped secure the win with big outs by Franklin Morales and Daniel Bard. With runners on second and third, Morales managed to strike out Adam Kennedy for the second out of the seventh. In came Bard, who made Mariners catcher Miguel Olivo look bad on a nasty slider to end the threat. Despite a lead off four pitch walk and a wild pitch, Bard also managed to escape the eighth without any damage, setting up Papelbon to try and hold the two-run lead.
The Red Sox closer did his job for the 27th time this season, pitching around a harmless two out single to grab the save and give Lackey his 11th win of the year. Lackey might be solidifying his place as the leader in the clubhouse for the third spot in the rotation when October comes around, as it seems no matter the team or the ballpark, Lackey manages to give the Red Sox a chance in every game, whereas his counterpart for the role in Erik Bedard is slightly more unpredictable as of today. In the end though it’ll be the pitcher who is pitching the best when the time comes, but starts like these for Lackey shouldn’t lessen his chances for the job because he’s shown that he knows what it takes to pitch to win and has been effective at doing that as of late.
On Saturday night the Red Sox will send Josh Beckett to the hill opposite Mariners ace Felix Hernandez. Beckett is coming off of a six inning no decision against the Yankees in which he allowed just one run, and will be looking for his tenth win of what has been an incredible bounce back season. Hernandez looks to continue another great year after a tough complete game loss at the hands of the Angels in which he allowed just two runs and struck out twelve.