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Red Sox 9, Rays 5

Red Sox get even with Rays

Offense takes over after setback in series opener

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / July 17, 2011

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - John Lackey is guilty of not having pitched well for much of the season. But you can’t accuse him of not caring.

The righthander was as emotional as a linebacker during his start against the Tampa Bay Rays yesterday, flinging his arms in the air in disgust when his defense failed him and reacting angrily when manager Terry Francona removed him from the game in the sixth inning.

But Lackey made no apologies. For him, every start is worth fighting for.

“You only get, if you’re healthy all year, 33 times to help the team. You have to take them pretty damn seriously,’’ he said.

Decorum may not be his strong point, but Lackey pitched well again as the Red Sox prevailed, 9-5, before a crowd of 32,487 at Tropicana Field.

Dustin Pedroia homered for the third consecutive game as the Sox rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win for the 11th time in their last 13 games.

Lackey (7-8) allowed four runs, three earned, over 5 2/3 innings. He gave up 10 hits but walked just one and struck out seven.

Lackey has won his last two starts, giving up three earned runs over 12 1/3 innings with two walks and 14 strikeouts. With Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz on the disabled list, a continued return to form by Lackey would help stabilize the rotation.

“We’d love for him to get hot. That would be one of the best things ever that could happen to us,’’ Francona said.

Lackey stayed away from his four-seam fastball yesterday, throwing an assortment of breaking and offspeed pitches. His slider was particularly effective.

“I’ve had a lot of balls on the ground and getting some free outs with the strikeout makes things a little easier,’’ Lackey said.

Lackey was smiling after the game, a vast difference from the frustration he showed in the first.

Johnny Damon, Tampa Bay’s leadoff hitter, reached on a throwing error by Marco Scutaro. Singles by Ben Zobrist and Casey Kotchman scored a run.

Scutaro deflected the ball hit by Kotchman up the middle, causing Lackey to throw his arms up in frustration.

After Evan Longoria grounded into a force at second, a play made more difficult because of a low throw by Scutaro, Matt Joyce grounded to the right side.

Adrian Gonzalez, who has played almost perfect defense at first base this season, could not come up with the ball and Zobrist scored on the single. B.J. Upton followed with an RBI single to left.

“Kind of ran into a little bad luck,’’ Lackey said.

But Lackey would allow only one more run. He retired nine of 11 at one point, five by strikeout.

He got two quick outs in the sixth before Gonzalez booted a Damon grounder. Lackey then hit Zobrist with his 107th pitch. Francona took no chances and called in lefthander Randy Williams.

Lackey shouted in the direction of Francona when he emerged from the dugout. But it was the right call, as Williams needed one pitch to get Kotchman to ground to second.

“I don’t pay much attention,’’ Francona said. “There can’t be a discussion. I need to do what I’m going to do.’’

Williams got two more lefthanded hitters in the seventh, giving him a perfect debut with the Sox after being called up yesterday from Pawtucket.

Daniel Bard finished the seventh and pitched the eighth. He extended his scoreless streak to 20 2/3 innings, during which opponents are 7 for 67 (.104).

Jonathan Papelbon gave up a run in the ninth. He has a 2.95 ERA in save situations, 5.51 otherwise.

Trailing, 3-0, after the first inning, the Sox struck back at James Shields, who had shut them out at Fenway Park June 14.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia drew a walk in the second inning and scored on a home run by Josh Reddick, a blast deep into the seats in right field.

Reddick saluted his father, brother, and high school coach sitting near the Red Sox dugout after he crossed the plate. It was the first time Ken Reddick had seen his son homer in a major league game in person.

“That was a big accomplishment,’’ said Reddick, who is from Guyton, Ga., about six hours away. “For them to actually see one live was a big feeling. Had to give them a little love after I hit it.’’

The Sox scored three times in the third inning to take the lead. After Gonzalez walked, Kevin Youkilis slapped a single to left. David Ortiz then lined a double to the gap in right to drive in two runs. J.D. Drew followed with a double to score Ortiz.

Jacoby Ellsbury homered to right in the fourth, his fourth home run in the last seven games.

Pedroia connected in the seventh inning against Juan Cruz. He has hit safely in 14 consecutive games and reached base safely in 26 straight, the longest active streak in the majors. Pedroia has hit seven home runs during the hit streak, and this is the first time he has homered in three straight games in the same season.

“I’m not a home run hitter by any means,’’ Pedroia said. “I’m not trying to hit home runs at all. It might look like it, but trust me, I’m not.’’

Youkilis and Ortiz drove in two more runs in the ninth.

“We’re good,’’ Lackey said. “We’ve got too many good players in this locker room for it not to get going the way it has been. We had a lot of veteran guys who needed to settle in and get things rolling and be who they are.’’

Lackey himself may finally be joining that list.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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