Sloppy Sox slip and slide
Lackey is pelted by Padres in a rainy finale to series
Not even intermittent rain, which delayed the finale of this interleague set against the Padres four times for a combined 2 hours and 24 minutes, could prevent John Lackey’s self-immolation on the mound.
It went from bad to worse.
In a hurry.
And we’re not talking about the weather.
Looking to record his fourth straight win and climb above .500 for the first time this season, the Red Sox righthander fell well short of the mark in absorbing yesterday’s 5-1 rain-shortened loss before a soaked Fenway Park crowd of 37,419.
The 1:35 p.m. start was delayed 35 minutes, then the game was held up for 38 minutes with two outs in the third, and 31 minutes in the middle of the fifth. It was halted a fourth time for 40 minutes in the middle of the eighth. The game was called after 7 1/2 innings at 6:48 p.m., some 5 hours and 13 minutes after the scheduled start.
“It got sloppy,’’ said manager Terry Francona. “It never really rained real thick, and the field got sloppy and they stopped it and then they started it and stopped it.
“I don’t know what else you could do. They tried putting that Turface on there, but it was just to the point where it was getting out of control.’’
It was an apt description not only of the playing conditions, but Lackey’s outing as well.
Lackey (5-6, 7.36 ERA) allowed five runs on four hits, four walks, two hit batters, and a wild pitch in 3 1/3 innings, his shortest outing since April 19, 2010, when he allowed eight runs in 3 1/3 innings. He got off to a rocky start by serving up a leadoff homer to Will Venable.
“You could tell he just didn’t have feel,’’ Francona said.
“It wasn’t a great pitch,’’ Lackey said. “It was a cutter I left over the plate, for sure. You know, leadoff hitter. What are you going to do?’’
Lackey got through the next two innings — and the stoppage of 38 minutes — unscathed. Then came the fourth, which proved to be his undoing.
The Padres sent nine men to the plate, with six of the first seven reaching base. The first three scored via a walk, a hit by pitch, and a wild pitch.
Lackey lacked only a run-scoring balk for an ignominious pitching cycle, but Chase Headley drove in the fourth run of the inning with a single to right.
That prompted Francona to emerge with the hook. As he departed the mound, boos rained down on Lackey from the sparse crowd.
The Sox, who won their first five interleague contents of the season by a combined 56-18, could not generate the firepower they showed in a 10-run seventh inning of Monday’s 14-5 victory.
They threatened with one out in the first, loading the bases against Padres lefthander Clayton Richard (3-9).
Dustin Pedroia (2 for 3), Adrian Gonzalez (4 for 4), and Kevin Youkilis (2 for 4) all reached on singles. But David Ortiz, who proved a rally-killer in his first three at-bats, grounded to short for a double play.
Ortiz came up in the third with two out and men in scoring position but again failed to push across a run as he lined to short.
“There’s nothing you can do but put a good swing on the ball,’’ Ortiz said. “The three times I hit the ball, I felt like I hit it pretty good. It seemed like their guys knew where I was hitting it because the first inning, he was playing me where he was supposed to, more toward the bag.
“Then, the [third] inning, he played me on the other side of the bag.’’
The Sox rallied for a run in the fifth when Gonzalez came up with one out and two aboard and rifled a single to center that scored Jacoby Ellsbury from second.
After Youkilis flied to center for the second out, Ortiz came up with Pedroia on second and Gonzalez at first. But his grounder to third resulted in an inning-ending force on Gonzalez at second.
“The only guy on the left side of the field was the third baseman, and I hit the ball right to him,’’ Ortiz said. “What are you going to do?’’
It was that kind of day for the Sox: sloppy and unsatisfying on all fronts as they dropped to 5-4 in interleague play.
The Sox will take today off before embarking on a nine-game interleague road trip, beginning tomorrow night in Pittsburgh.
“You want to win every series, but we’re playing great baseball,’’ Youkilis said. “You can’t be too upset. Guys in here will turn the page quick.
“We’re hitting the ball pretty good. We didn’t score a lot of runs, but we’re still getting hits and doing things to play the game and we just have to keep doing that in Pittsburgh.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.