With the Red Sox mired in a general malaise, right-hander John Lackey gave the team exactly what it needed Wednesday night at Fenway Park -- a dominant outing from a starting pitcher -- as the Sox beat the American League East-leading Yankees, 5-1.
Lackey earned the win, improving to 3-2, lowering his ERA from 5.25 to 4.22. He made an impressive rebound from two less-than-impressive starts, to handcuff the Yankees, going eight innings, giving up one run on seven hits with no walks and 11 strikeouts. It was the most strikeouts he’s recorded since 12 on June 26, 2013, against the Rockies. It was the most strikeouts by a Sox pitcher against the Yankees since Tim Wakefield struck out 12 on Sept. 11, 2005.
He struck out the side – Alfonso Soriano, Mark Teixeira, and Brett Gardner – in the second, on a total of 11 pitches, needing just six for the first two K’s. Teixiera went 0-for-3, with three strikeouts. Only catcher Brian McCann and second baseman Brian Roberts escaped being Lackey’s strikeout victims.
For the first time since April 17, the Red Sox scored first in a game with two runs in the first inning, when they sent seven batters to the plate. They put four runs on the board before the Yankees could respond, with on in the sixth.
Coincidentally or not, Yankees starter Michael Pineda came out for the second inning with pine tar smeared on his neck. It is the second time in as many starts against the Sox that Pineda was found to have pine tar on him while on the mound. In his previous outing, April 10 in Yankee Stadium, the Sox did not bring it to the umpires’ attention. That would not be the case this time.
On Pineda’s third batter in the inning, Sox manager John Farrell brought it to the attention of home plate umpire Gerry Davis, who ultimately ejected Pineda in what is sure to be remembered as the Pine Tar game.
Pineda took the loss, falling to 2-2. He will likely be lost to the Yankees for several games when a suspension is ultimately handed down.
The Yankees needed four relievers to get through the rest of the game.
Although it was a non-save situation, Koji Uehara came in for the ninth, giving up a lead-off hit to Soriano before striking out Teixeira, Roberts, and Gardner.
• The Sox stopped a recent disconcerting trend -- letting opponents score first – with two runs in the first inning. It was the first time they scored first since April 17 in Chicago. The Sox are now 7-1 when scoring first.
• With Lackey’s 11 and three more from Koji Uehara in the ninth, Red Sox pitchers had a total of 14 strikeouts with no walks. In the last 100 years, the only other time Sox pitchers recorded at least 14 strikeouts in a game with no walks was Sept. 10, 1999, at Yankee Stadium, when Pedro Martinez pitched a complete game striking out 17 giving up just one run on Chili Davis’ home run.
• Sox outfielders went a combined 1-for-13 with six strikeouts and a run scored. The lone hit was a lead-off triple by Sizemore, who also scored. Sox outfielders entered the game hitting a combined .209.
• Lackey gave a stellar pitching performance, just what the Sox needed, going eight innings, giving up one run on seven hits with no walks and 11 strikeouts. It is the most strikeouts he’s recorded since June 26, 2013, against the Rockies when he struck out 12, and his 16th career game with 10 or more strikeouts. It is the most strikeouts by a Sox pitcher against the Yankees since Tim Wakefield’s 12 on Sept. 11, 2005, at New York.
Lackey was also the last Sox pitcher to record at least 11 strikeouts without a walk when he did so in that game against the Rockies.
He has now pitched at least five innings in 27 consecutive starts, the longest such streak among active pitchers, tied with Jamie Moyer for fifth-longest since 1914.
• Mike Napoli extended his career-best on-base streak to 18 games, going 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI. It is the longest on-base streak by a Sox batter since David Ortiz reached in 23 straight games last season. The only longer active streaks this season belong to Toronto’s Jose Bautista (21 games) and Baltimore’s Chris Davis (19 games) have longer active streaks
Overall, Napoli is batting .309, with a .391 on-base percentage and .556 slugging percentage. He is tied with Dustin Pedroia at seven for the most multi-hit games on the sox this season, and has a team-leading three three-hit games.
• Brock Holt reached base three times, going 1-for-2 with two walks, and an RBI. He has reached base multiple times in four of six games since being called up on April 18, batting .400, going 8-for-20 with a triple, four RBI, 3 walks, and three runs scored. He has reached base in 11 of 23 plate appearances with a hit in all six games.
After going 6-for-33 (.182) with runners in scoring position, leaving 25 runners on base, over the last four games, the Sox were more efficient against the Yankees on Tuesday. They went 4-for-12 (.333) with runners in scoring position, although still leaving nine runners on base.
With Lackey’s outing, the bullpen got some much needed rest. In the previous five games, starting pitchers had gone just 24 2/3 innings, taxing the bullpen for 20 1/3 innings.
AROUND THE BASES:
• With Lackey’s 11 and three more from Koji Uehara in the ninth, Red Sox pitchers had a total of 14 strikeouts with no walks. In the last 100 years, the only other time Sox pitchers recorded at least 14 strikeouts in a game with no walks was Sept. 10, 1999, at Yankee Stadium, when Pedro Martinez pitched a complete game striking out 17 with now walks giving up just one run on Chili Davis’ home run, as he improved to 21-4.
• David Ortiz extended his hitting streak to five games, going 1-for-3 with a run scored and a walk. In that span, he is batting .389, going 7-for-18, with two home runs, three RBI, four walks, and four runs scored…Ortiz tied Harold Baines at 1,643 for the most games ever as designated hitter.
• Dustin Pedroia extended his hitting streak to six games, going 2-for-5with two runs and an RBI. In that stretch he is batting .417, going 10-for-24, with five doubles, three RBI, four walks, and five runs scored. It matches his longest streak of the season. He has reached base in 14 of his last 28 plate appearances.
• Sizemore’s lead-off triple was his first since June 18, 2011, with Cleveland against the Pirates. It was his seventh triple to lead-off a game and first since July 5, 2008, at Minnesota with Cleveland.
• Uehara gave up a lead-off hit in the ninth and then recorded three straight strikeouts. He has not allowed a run in eight innings over eight games this season, recording 14 strikeouts and one walk.
• Right-hander Alex Wilson was called up to help the overworked bullpen. With Lackey’s dominant outing, though, he was not needed and returned to Pawtucket after the game.
• Right fielder Shane Victorino could be activated on Thursday. He has been on the DL all season after straining his right hamstring in the final spring training game. He had originally been expected to be activated on Wednesday, but the Sox opted to call up right-hander Alex Wilson, giving them an extra arm in the bullpen after a recent heavy workload for relievers.
• Third baseman Will Middlebrooks, on the DL since April 5 with a right calf strain, is scheduled to make a rehab start on Thursday for Triple-A Pawtucket. However, he could be activated, though, if the Sox want to add another right-handed bat against Yankees lefty CC Sabathia. Farrell said a decision had not yet been made.
The Red Sox and Yankees play the finale of their three-game series at Fenway Park at 7:10 p.m. on Thursday. Yankees left-hander and erstwhile ace CC Sabathia is scheduled to start, opposed by Sox left Felix Doubront.
It will be the fifth start of the season for Sabathia (2-2, 5.19 ERA). He took the loss against the Red Sox on April 11 in Yankee Stadium when he went seven innings, giving up four runs on six hits and two walks with nine strikeouts.
Doubront (1-2, 5.48 ERA) is 3-3 with a 4.15 ERA against the Yankees, giving up 26 earned runs over 56 1/3 innings. In his last outing, he went 6 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Orioles, giving up two runs on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts.
“There’s been less thought of mechanics and delivery rather than executing pitches,” manager John Farrell said of Doubront’s recent outings. “He’s used the full assortment, rather than, you go back a couple of starts ago he was so fast ball oriented it didn’t’ work in his favor. I think more than anything he’s gone back to a normal pitch distribution and been more free of mind in his game plan.”