Sox complete sweep
Lackey gets enough backing to keep the Diamondbacks at bay
The words flew whip-quick out of manager Terry Francona’s mouth as he sat down in front of the press corps last night. He didn’t wait for a question.
“We played a crisp game,’’ he said. “Lackey was pretty good. And we scored.’’
The performance drew a laugh. Francona was clearly in a good mood, ready — after a far-too-long 3-hour-and-24-minute game — to hit the couch, to watch the Celtics take on the Lakers in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Another win was in the books, this one 8-5 over the Diamondbacks, in a 5-1 homestand full of good moments. He was eager to see another win for the city of Boston, and for his friend Doc Rivers.
He stayed around for another four minutes, discussing the Sox’ latest win, the so-so start by John Lackey, before he made his escape. It was already the second quarter. He had missed enough.
The Sox were finally able to cash in on a sweep, after winning the first two games in each of their last five series before losing. That would not happen last night, not against the Diamondbacks, a team that has lost 13 straight on the road and has been unable to remain relevant even in the National League West.
In addition, the Sox benefited from losses by the Rays and Yankees, finishing the night just two games out of first place.
“It’s a long season,’’ David Ortiz said. “I don’t know how come people freaked out the very beginning. We have played — what? — 70 games. Still a lot of games to go.
“June doesn’t determine what it’s going to be like in October, either. You’ve got to keep on playing, keep on winning games, and see what happens later on.
“Good results bring confidence. Remember that.’’
Last night, it was difficult to figure when the final blow would be struck. Arizona would score a run, then the Sox would add one. The Diamondbacks would send a runner, then Boston would cross the plate.
But it also seemed inevitable that the Sox would come out on top. In the sixth inning, they finally staked their claim as Adrian Beltre drove in Victor Martinez (double) with a single. Marco Scutaro brought in another run with a sacrifice fly, making it 6-4.
“Every time they scored, it seemed like we answered back against one of the better pitchers,’’ Francona said. “Danny Haren’s really good. We did a good job of making him fight for everything. Fortunately we put up some runs. Then late, the runs late were huge.’’
They were huge, mostly because Lackey wasn’t able to hold the Diamondbacks down. He again gave the Sox a gritty performance, though it was hardly an outing that could be called good. It was simply good enough on a night that Haren didn’t have a lot, either.
“Coming out of the bullpen, Johnny [Farrell] was kind of raving about the command of his fastball and then when the game started, it was a battle for him to command his fastball,’’ Francona said. “First-pitch strikes were OK. One-one strikes were actually real good.
“Just didn’t finish off some hitters. Lot of deep counts. Saying that, they never were able to score more than one in an inning. He just has a way of managing the game and competing.’’
Though the Sox were able to score against Haren — one in the first, two in the third, and another in the fifth — so too were the Diamondbacks able to get to Lackey.
The Diamondbacks sent home a single runner in four of the first five innings, keeping the game tied, 4-4, as the teams headed to the sixth.
Lackey did manage to keep them off the board in that inning, his final frame before yielding to the bullpen. It was his only 1-2-3 inning of the evening, as his high number of baserunners continues to be of concern. With eight hits and two walks, Lackey’s WHIP (walks plus hits per inning) rose from 1.574 to 1.580. He allowed four runs overall, three of them earned, and struck out five.
“He was fighting, he was fighting to get his fastball away from righthanders,’’ Martinez said. “He was having a kind of tough time. Like always, he grinded it out. Every outing that he has made so far this season, he has grinded it out.
“It’s a big key for us. When you see Lackey on the mound, you know he’s going to keep the team in the game. He’s a warrior.’’
Lackey yielded to Dustin Richardson, who allowed a single to the only batter he faced. In came Manny Delcarmen. And though he quickly got the first two outs of the inning, he allowed a single to Chris Young and a walk to Adam LaRoche. That brought up Mark Reynolds, who had already struck out three times.
“That was obviously an important situation,’’ Francona said. “You’ve got a guy that can hit the ball across two streets, 3-and-2 count, runners are moving, there’s a lot going on there. That was huge.’’
And Delcarmen struck out Reynolds for the fourth time.
“Obviously it was a huge out, getting out of the jam in the seventh inning,’’ Martinez said. “We just threw a fastball right down the middle, and he took it.’’
The Sox added two insurance runs in the eighth, the first on Daniel Nava’s double, the second on Scutaro’s single. That was it.
“Every win is big for us,’’ Martinez said. “We’re just going out there and keep having fun and keep playing our game.’’
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter@amaliebenjamin.