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Likely to be pitched battle

Lately, Lackey hasn’t given in

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / August 30, 2011

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Something’s got to give tonight when John Lackey, undefeated in two starts this season against the Yankees, opposes CC Sabathia, winless in four starts this year vs. the Red Sox.

Lackey’s teammates know the big righthander is not likely to give an inch to the Yankees in the first game of a three-game set.

“He doesn’t give in,’’ said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “He’s not a guy who’s set in his ways where he’s like, ‘This is the way I’ve always done it, so that’s what I’m going to do.’ He’s done a lot of new things this year that he’s not used to doing just because the game changes, and you’ve got to change with it.

“He’s a great guy who goes out there and competes and you wish nothing but the best for him.’’

Lackey has gone 7-1 in his last nine starts with a 4.11 earned run average, allowing 29 runs (26 earned) on 69 hits and 13 walks while ringing up 46 strikeouts in 57 innings.

“He always goes out there with the same mindset and wants to outlast the other pitcher,’’ Saltalamacchia said. “He competes and he battles. He’s mixed in a cutter a little more this year than he did last year. I just think he competes and he never gives in. He’s had a lot of starts this year where he’s not gone out there and tried to cruise through on a fastball. He’s had to really compete, and that’s pretty much the whole starting rotation.’’

Both of Lackey’s victories against New York came at home, where he allowed nine runs on 13 hits (including one home run) and four walks to go along with seven strikeouts over 11 innings.

“He’s a horse, man,’’ said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. “He’s been through a lot since he’s been here. He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever been around. Everyone’s got his back and he’s going to go out there and keep us in the ballgame and do all he can to win.

“That’s what we got him for, to win games, and he does that.’’

Sabathia has lost both his starts at Fenway, where his 6.17 ERA is his highest this season at any major league park.

Lackey’s recent work has impressed his teammates.

“Yeah, he’s done great,’’ Pedroia said. “He’s been attacking the zone and he’s been staying out of the middle of plate and he’s been doing a good job. Last start, he fielded his position great and got us a double play; he’s been awesome.’’

Pedroia was referring to the 1-4-3 double play Lackey helped convert in the sixth inning of last Tuesday’s 11-5 romp at Texas. With one out and runners on the corners, Lackey made an athletic glove save on Yorvit Torrealba’s comebacker. He spun and dropped to his knees to throw to Pedroia, who relayed to first.

“It’s a lot easier when he fields it and throws it right to my chest,’’ Pedroia said.

“Lack’s been solid all year long,’’ Saltalamacchia said. “Everyone’s been talking about he’s been giving up this and giving up that. But you know what? He’s been competing and he’s been giving us strong starts all year long. So we’re not worried about that.

“We’re just going to look for him to go out there and compete and give us a chance to win.’’

Gonzalez honored Adrian Gonzalez yesterday was named AL Player of the Week for the first time as a Red Sox for the period ending Aug. 28.

Gonzalez batted a torrid .393 over that stretch, with a double, five home runs, nine RBIs, and eight runs. Two of his homers came on first-pitch fastballs off Alexi Ogando in back-to-back at-bats in the first and third innings of last Thursday’s 6-0 win at Texas.

His third-inning double to left off A’s starter Guillermo Moscoso in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader sweep of Oakland marked Gonzalez’s 183d hit of the season, which surpassed his career high of 182 with the Padres in 2007.

Gonzalez leads the majors with a .345 batting average, 298 total bases, and 184 hits, is second overall in RBIs (103), and is tied for third in extra-base hits (65).

It was the fifth weekly honor of Gonzalez’s career and first since May 24, 2010, with the Padres.

He’ll have a ball PGA Tour star Keegan Bradley, winner of the 2011 PGA Championship, will throw out the first pitch tonight. When he received the Wannamaker Trophy for winning the PGA Championship, Bradley placed a Red Sox cap on it before posing with it for photographers. The 25-year-old native of Woodstock, Vt., who attended Hopkinton High before going to St. John’s University, tweeted yesterday morning, “It’s happening!Throwing out the 1st pitch at the Fenway tomorrow in support of @TheJimmyFund and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. #gosox.’’ . . . Portland outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker was named Eastern League Player of the Week after going 12 for 27 with three homers and seven RBIs.

A-Rod, Jeter iffy Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez returned to New York from Baltimore to have an MRI on his left thumb, and the result “came out good,’’ according to manager Joe Girardi. Rodriguez sat out Sunday night’s game against the Orioles after playing in the first half of the split doubleheader. “He’s day to day,’’ Girardi said. “His thumb, we got to let it heal, so I can’t tell you exactly when he’s going to be back. It’s just when he feels better.’’ Shortstop Derek Jeter was out of the starting lineup last night against the Orioles for a second straight game. He fouled a ball of his right knee in the third inning of the opener Sunday and sustained a bruised kneecap. Girardi said Jeter is also day-to-day.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report; Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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