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Tag:John Lackey
Posted on: September 26, 2011 10:25 pm
 

Disaster looms; blame Beckett (and Lester)

BALTIMORE -- If you don't pitch, it doesn't matter how good you feel. Doesn't matter how relaxed you are.

If your aces don't pitch, you're in serious trouble.

The Red Sox, once again, are in serious trouble, after Monday night's 6-3 loss to the Orioles. A wild-card lead that was nine games just 23 days ago has now totally disappeared, after Boston's loss and the Rays' 5-2 win over the Yankees.

All tied up, with two games to play.

Disaster looms once again for the Sox, and if you want to blame anyone, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester are available.

It was Beckett who started -- and lost -- Monday. But this disaster doesn't belong to just one guy. Right now, the two biggest culprits are the two biggest starters.

When September began, someone using my name wrote that the difference between the Red Sox and the Yankees was that Boston had two top-of-the-rotation starters and New York had just one.

OK, I'll confess, it was me. And I'll admit it, I was wrong.

The last two times through the rotation, when the Red Sox needed Beckett and Lester the most, the two have combined to go 0-4 with a 9.39 ERA.

0-4, 9.39.

That's worse than John Lackey -- who, after his performance Sunday night (in-game, not postgame), is now Boston's most effective starter.

Lackey, Jacoby Ellsbury and the bullpen really did give the Sox a lift with Sunday's win. The pregame atmosphere in the Red Sox clubhouse Monday afternoon felt nothing like the weekend atmosphere in New York, or last week's at Fenway.

Sure enough, the Red Sox took a second-inning lead Monday night, just the second time in the last 13 games they'd scored first. Even when Beckett gave the run back in the bottom of the second, the Red Sox went back ahead in the fourth.

But on a night where they really needed Beckett to pitch like an ace, he turned the fifth and sixth into two innings of Red Sox misery.

When Robert Andino -- remember him? -- hit the first Orioles' inside-the-park home run in Camden Yards history (that's 20 years of history), the Red Sox were down four runs.

Andino's blast went off Ellsbury's glove in center field, but it would have been a spectacular catch, as he crashed into the fence. The blame goes to the guy who served up the blast, not the guy who nearly caught it.

It didn't help that the Sox didn't score after Jed Lowrie's go-ahead home run in the fourth. But this one was on Beckett, without doubt.

And the Red Sox' season now rests on the shaky Erik Bedard, who starts Tuesday, and then on Lester, now certain to come back Wednesday on short rest.

Normally, the Sox would feel good relying on Lester. They felt good relying on Beckett Monday.

Good feelings don't last around here. Right now, that should be obvious.

Posted on: September 26, 2011 12:36 pm
Edited on: September 26, 2011 2:00 pm
 

Check that -- Red Sox are a soap opera

I won't pretend to know what's going on in John Lackey's marriage, or in his obviously troubled mind.

But I will say this: Theo Epstein was wrong.

The Red Sox general manager insisted last week that his team is not a "soap opera." He was wrong.

The Red Sox most definitely are a soap opera, an increasingly bizarre soap opera, playing out alongside a bizarre wild-card race.

How does one affect the other?

That's just one more thing we don't know, and can't know.

We know that last week, a Yankee fan bragged on Facebook about serving Red Sox pitcher Erik Bedard with papers in a child support case, just hours before Bedard started a game against the Orioles.

We know that Sunday, Lackey said he received a text message just 30 minutes before taking the mound against the Yankees. The text was apparently related to a report that Lackey has filed for divorce from his wife Krista, who has been battling breast cancer.

The Lackey report showed up on TMZ.com, a website that normally deals with celebrity gossip -- and soap operas.

It made for a strange scene in the Red Sox clubhouse Sunday night, where most of the team was exhaling after a win that may have saved the Sox' season, while Lackey was steaming.

"Let's be honest one time," he snarled, in a question about three first-inning runs.

The honest truth about his pitching is that Lackey was good Sunday night, much better than he has been, good enough to help the Red Sox save their season.

The honest truth about Lackey's other issues is -- how do we know?

It sounds bad. Of course it does. And so many of us are inclined to believe it's bad, either because we find Lackey unnecessarily confrontational, or because we're mad about how bad he has been on the mound.

He's not exactly a sympathetic character, and wasn't, even before TMZ got involved.

How does one affect the other? Do his personal problems have anything to do with his pitching problems?

It can happen. I know that. I know that in years on the baseball beat, I've seen more than one player have a poor season that coincided with personal off-field issues.

In most of those cases, we never knew the full story, and didn't report the little that we did know. It wasn't done, and it still isn't done by most of the sports media.

We don't know the full story about John Lackey, not yet and maybe not ever. But in today's world, it does get reported, and in this world, Lackey and his team end up dealing with it.

The Red Sox have dealt with plenty in this strange month, from Bedard to Lackey to the report of a front-office "disconnect" that brought on Epstein's emphatic denial last week.

From all indications, he was right about the front office and manager Terry Francona. There doesn't seem to be a disconnect.

He was wrong about the soap opera.

This is a soap opera, and the next episode will play out Monday night in Baltimore.


Posted on: September 22, 2011 11:36 pm
 

3 to Watch: The Yankees' chance edition

NEW YORK -- The Phillies haven't won since they clinched the National League East.

The Tigers have lost three of five since they clinched the American League Central.

And Thursday, the Yankees played a Triple-A lineup, committed four errors and lost 15-8 to the Rays, the day after clinching the AL East.

What happens next will be more interesting.

What happens next is Yankees-Red Sox, giving the Yankees a chance to push their biggest rivals a few steps further towards what would be an embarrassing collapse.

Could the Yankees possibly sleepwalk through three more days, at the risk of giving the Red Sox life?

Johnny Damon says no.

As the Rays designated hitter, Damon is an interested party. But as an ex-Red Sox and ex-Yankee, he understands the dynamics of the rivalry, too. And he fully believes that whether the Yankees say it publicly or not, they want the Red Sox out of the playoffs.

"Yeah, because it's definitely not a good story if the Red Sox beat them in the playoffs," Damon said. "If the Rays beat them, it may not be acceptable, but it's more palatable.

"And they've matched up well against us. We haven't really done anything to show them otherwise."

The Yankees have been in an unusual spot all week, in a sense having control over who wins the AL wild card and who doesn't. For three games against the Rays, they could pretend that they were solely focused on winning the division themselves.

Now that they're in, they'll claim that they're solely focused on setting themselves up for the playoffs. Yes, catcher Russell Martin said Thursday, "I hate the Red Sox," but everywhere else in the Yankee clubhouse they were insisting they don't care who else gets in.

We'll see.

We'll see what lineups manager Joe Girardi runs out there the next three days, and then for three games at Tampa Bay. We'll see what intensity the Yankees play with.


Girardi is absolutely right that his main objective should be to get his team ready. He's right not to start ace CC Sabathia, since Sabathia wouldn't line up well for Game 1 if he starts again during the regular season.

"Our responsibility is to our club," Girardi said Thursday. "That's the bottom line. I have to make sure our guys are healthy, rested and ready to go [for the first playoff game] next Friday."

Hard to blame him for that.

The Phillies did the same thing on the final weekend of last season against the Braves, who were still fighting for a wild-card spot. On the final day of the season, in a game the Braves had to win, Cole Hamels started but pitched just two innings.

The Phils will likely take the same approach next week in Atlanta. The Rangers may do the same in Anaheim, if they clinch the AL West before their series against the Angels begins Monday.

The difference for the Yankees is that each of their final six games could influence the wild-card race.

The difference is that the Yankees are playing the Red Sox, with a chance to help knock them out.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. The Braves, as colleague Scott Miller pointed out, have been collapsing almost as badly as the Red Sox have. They got a break Thursday, when the Cardinals collapsed in the ninth inning against the Mets, but they know that the Cards have a seeming schedule advantage with their final six games against the Cubs and Astros. The Braves will figure they need to win, beginning with Braves at Nationals, Friday night (7:05 ET) at Nationals Park. The Nats just swept the Phillies, and have won nine of their last 11. And this is a Strasburg game.

2. Yes, it's true, the Red Sox were worried enough about their pitching that they contacted the Mets at one point to try to make a late trade for Chris Capuano. It's true, after starting Jon Lester Friday, the Sox are stuck with no better choices than Tim Wakefield and John Lackey the rest of the weekend. Lackey has a 10.70 ERA in September. Wakefield is at 4.95, heading into a likely meeting with equally bad A.J. Burnett in Red Sox at Yankees, Saturday afternoon (4:10 ET) at Yankee Stadium.

3. There are other games that matter more, with the Angels at home against the A's, the Cardinals at home against the Cubs, the Rangers trying to clinch at home against the Mariners and the Diamondbacks trying to clinch at home against the Giants. But Justin Verlander is going for his 25th win, so 3 to Watch has no choice but to close with Orioles at Tigers, Saturday night (7:05 ET) at Comerica Park. No pitcher has won 25 since Bob Welch won 27 for the 1990 A's, and Welch was the first since Steve Stone won 25 for the 1980 Orioles. The last Tiger to win 25: Denny McLain, when he won 31 in 1968. Verlander, who at this point has to be the American League MVP, is 20-2 with a 1.75 ERA over his last 22 starts, holding opponents to a .188 batting average and a .529 OPS. The last guy with an OPS that low and enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title was Alfredo Griffin, in 1990.


Posted on: September 18, 2011 8:56 pm
Edited on: September 18, 2011 10:21 pm
 

3 to Watch: The doubleheader edition

BOSTON -- The Yankees don't have enough pitching. The Red Sox don't have enough pitching.

The low-budget Rays? They have enough pitching.

Crazy, isn't it?

If the Yankees or Red Sox had Matt Moore, you can be sure he'd be starting a game this week, with both teams faced with doubleheaders and cramped schedules.

The Rays have Matt Moore, the top pitching prospect who has scouts buzzing almost Strasburg-style. And while manager Joe Maddon talks about possibly starting him sometime in these final 10 days of the season, he's not yet listed among the Rays' probables.

While the Red Sox go into a doubleheader Monday with Kyle Weiland and John Lackey as their scheduled starters, and while the Yankees hope that Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia aren't running out of gas (or, in Colon's case, stem cells), the Rays have the most solid rotation this side of Philadelphia.

Yes, part of it was drafting high all those years when they were bad (the same way the Yankees got Derek Jeter). David Price was the first player picked in 2007, and Jeff Niemann was the fourth player picked three years earlier.

But the Rays took Wade Davis in the third round, got rookie of the year candidate Jeremy Hellickson in the fourth round and found Moore, the latest phenom, in the eighth round.

Maybe they just make better decisions, or do a better job developing pitchers.

They do it so well that they could afford to trade Matt Garza last winter, and could deal Niemann or Davis -- or even Shields -- this winter. Shields would be the toughest to let go (far tougher than Garza), but he would also bring by far the most back to a team that needs offense and has little money to pay for it.

First, though, the great rotation has brought the Rays back into the wild-card race, and gives them a chance of winning it.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. When the Red Sox were rained out on May 17 against the Orioles and rescheduled it as part of a doubleheader this week, they probably figured it would be simply an annoyance as they prepared for the playoffs. Instead, it's a major headache for a Red Sox team struggling desperately to hold onto a wild-card ticket to the playoffs. And this doubleheader, Orioles at Red Sox, Monday afternoon (1:05 ET) and night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park, doesn't help. The worst part: The Red Sox are stuck starting rookie Kyle Weiland, who has yet to win and has made it past the fourth inning in just one of his four big-league starts. In the other game, they'll go with John Lackey, has the worst ERA of any regular big-league starter.

2. The Giants have won eight in a row, to put off elimination and put a little heat on the first-place Diamondbacks. The Giants are still five games out, but they go to Phoenix this weekend for three games with the D-Backs, so the race isn't over yet. But the Giants, who can't afford to lose, face Clayton Kershaw in Giants at Dodgers, Tuesday night (10:10 ET) at Dodger Stadium. In five starts against the Giants this year, Kershaw is 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA. He'll be going for his 20th win, so he'll be even more motivated. But his opponent, Tim Lincecum, will be pitching to keep the Giants' season alive.

3. While the Red Sox go with Weiland and Lackey in their doubleheader, the Rays will start Shields and Hellickson in Rays at Yankees, Wednesday afternoon (1:05) and night (7:05) at Yankee Stadium. Shields leads the majors with 11 complete games, which makes him perfect for a doubleheader. Wednesday should be interesting for the Yankees, too, if not nearly as crucial. Ace CC Sabathia, who is just 3-3 with a 4.56 ERA in his last eight starts, goes against Shields, while inconsistent Phil Hughes faces Hellickson.

Posted on: September 8, 2011 8:55 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2011 11:48 pm
 

3 to Watch: The 'Discourage them' edition

The Phillies' goals for the rest of the season would seem to be simple.

Stay healthy (or get healthy). Get rested. Figure out a playoff rotation. Try to break the club record for wins (it's 101, and after a win Thursday the Phillies need just a 10-10 finish to break it).

This week, as the Phillies have faced two potential playoff opponents, manager Charlie Manuel threw another goal out there:

Intimidate the opposition. Look as unbeatable as possible.

"If you play really well, it could discourage them," Manuel said, in advance of this weekend's series in Milwaukee.

The Phillies will likely open the playoffs against the Diamondbacks, who were 2 1/2 games behind the Brewers entering play Thursday. In that case, their second-round opponent would be either the Braves or the Brewers.

The Phillies swept the Braves in a three-game series. They opened a four-game series against the Brewers with a 7-2 win Thursday night.

The games barely matter in the standings, with both teams far ahead in their divisions. Manuel thinks they could matter in the minds of the players, especially if one team dominates the other.

"When I managed in the minor leagues, I had some big hitting teams," he said. "I always liked it when the other team watched us take batting practice. It scared them."

So Charlie, someone asked, does that mean you don't want your pitchers watching when Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder take BP?

"My pitchers can," he said, laughing. "My starting rotation can watch them."

Nothing will scare Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee et al, Manuel figures, probably correctly.

But there is some thought in Philadelphia that the one team that would really concern the Phillies would be the Giants, who knocked them out of the playoffs last year and also won two of three in Philadelphia in July (although the Phillies then won three of four in San Francisco).

The Phillies lost two of three to the Brewers in April, but the Phillies don't look at the Brewers the way they look at the Giants.

Not yet, anyway.

If the Brewers play really well this weekend, maybe the Phillies could be the team that gets discouraged.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. With Josh Beckett's ankle injury, the Red Sox have reason to worry about their starting rotation. They don't have to worry about making it to the playoffs. Right? Uh, I think that's right, but I also noticed that Boston's wild-card lead over the Rays shrunk to 6 1/2 games on Thursday night. And I noticed that the two teams have seven remaining head-to-head meetings, starting with Red Sox at Rays, Friday night (7:10 ET) at Tropicana Field. Great pitching matchup Sunday, with Jon Lester going against James Shields, but especially with Beckett out, the Red Sox might be more focused on what happens Friday, when John Lackey faces Wade Davis. Of the 140 pitchers that have started at least 15 games in the majors this year, Lackey (6.11) is the only one with an ERA over 6.00.

2. For the last three weeks, the Angels have had an easier schedule than the Rangers, and that's no doubt one reason why the Rangers' lead in the American League West shrunk from seven games to 2 1/2 games. But the schedule turns starting this weekend, when the Rangers begin a homestand against the A's and Indians, followed by a trip to Seattle and Oakland. Meanwhile, in Anaheim, it gets tougher, including Yankees at Angels, Saturday night (9:05 ET) at Angel Stadium. At least the Angels have their top three starters set for the series, with Jered Weaver facing Bartolo Colon on Friday, Dan Haren against CC Sabathia on Saturday and Ervin Santana against Freddy Garcia on Sunday.

3. When someone asked Manuel the other day if there's any way Vance Worley could find his way into the postseason rotation, the Phillies manager said: "I think that's a question that should be asked." While the Yankees and Red Sox wonder if they have enough pitchers they would want to start in October, the Phillies seem to have too many. Worley has been outstanding, but it's still hard to see Manuel using him ahead of Roy Oswalt, especially since the manager is on record saying he expects Oswalt's velocity to pick up in October. Worley gets another chance to make his case in Phillies at Brewers, Sunday afternoon (2:10 ET) at Miller Park. It's an interesting case, as the Phillies have won each of Worley's last 14 starts. If the Phillies win Sunday, Worley will tie the Philadelphia club record of 15, set by Steve Carlton in 1972, his 27-win season. The last longer streak in the big leagues was by the 2005 Cardinals, who won 17 straight Chris Carpenter starts.

Posted on: August 28, 2011 8:49 pm
Edited on: August 28, 2011 9:03 pm
 

3 to Watch: The Yankees start in Boston edition

Of all the pitchers who have ever made 90 or more career starts for the Yankees, A.J. Burnett has the worst ERA (4.82).

Of all the pitchers who have ever started 11 or more games in a season for the Yankees, Phil Hughes has the seventh highest ERA (6.46).

Good thing the Yankees don't really need to beat the first-place Red Sox this week, with Hughes and Burnett starting two of the three games.

Oh, they'll tell you that they do. They'll talk about the importance of winning the American League East, and of home-field advantage in the playoffs.

But the real importance of this week, and the real importance of every other week until the playoffs begin, is for the Yankees to figure out which of their shaky starting pitchers they can possibly hope to rely on in October. Boston is a good place to try to start figuring, in part because the Red Sox may be the team the Yankees eventually need to beat, and also because in 12 games against the Red Sox this season (10 of them losses), Yankee starters have a 7.54 ERA.

At the moment, Burnett would seem the least reliable, given his 11.91 ERA and 1.142 opponents OPS (Jose Bautista leads all major-league hitters at 1.092) in August.

In fact, with manager Joe Girardi once again promising that the Yankees will go from a six-man rotation to a five-man rotation after the series in Boston, Burnett is the leading candidate to be dropped.

The Yankees would like to think that Hughes is less of a concern, given that in five straight appearances heading into last week, he had a 2.08 ERA. Then Hughes was awful against the light-hitting A's (2 2/3 innings, six runs), and followed it up with the strange comment, "Hopefully I won't face the A's again for a while."

Instead, his next start is against the Red Sox, who lead the majors in scoring.

Hughes should know that; in three appearances against Boston this year, he has a 16.20 ERA.

Even when Hughes had good numbers, scouts weren't overly impressed.

"He was better," said one scout who watched him in a good performance. "But that's not the same Phil Hughes from when he was really good."

Hughes starts Wednesday night. Burnett, 0-4 with an 8.71 ERA in eight starts for the Yankees against the Red Sox, starts Thursday.

So the Yankees might want to win the first game of the series, behind ace CC Sabathia, on Tuesday.

And that, if nothing else, will make this feel just like a Yankee playoff series.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. The Diamondbacks ended the weekend with a four-game lead in the National League West (their biggest yet), which means they're guaranteed to enter September -- and next weekend's big series in San Francisco -- in first place. First, they'll play three games against the Rockies -- the team that was supposed to be challenging the Giants -- beginning with Rockies at Diamondbacks, Monday night (9:40 ET) at Chase Field. Monday's game also features Alex White, one of the two pitchers the Rockies got in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade.

2. At this point, it's probably worth pointing out that Sabathia is 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA in his four starts against the Red Sox this year, and also that his 4.95 ERA in August is easily his highest for any month this year. But there's no doubt that the Yankees trust Sabathia about 10 times more than they trust any of their other starters, so they'll expect him to win, in Yankees at Red Sox, Tuesday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park. Sabathia faces the unreliable John Lackey, with Josh Beckett and Jon Lester going against Hughes and Burnett the next two nights.

3. The Yankees talk about home-field advantage, and it's true that they're 41-26 at Yankee Stadium this year. But that's nothing compared to the Brewers, who have a 50-16 home record, with 17 wins in their last 19 games. That record has helped the Brewers turn the National League Central into a runaway, and has greatly diminished the importance of this week's series against second-place St. Louis. The Brewer record for home wins in a season is 54, and they could get close in the series that ends with Cardinals at Brewers, Thursday afternoon (4:10 ET) at Miller Park. Yovani Gallardo, who is 9-1 with a 2.51 ERA in 13 home starts, will be on the mound for the Brewers. One more thing about the Brewers: Despite playing in the smallest market in the majors, they'll sell their 3 miilionth ticket sometime this week.

Posted on: June 29, 2011 10:32 pm
 

Lackey pitches well, but questions remain

PHILADELPHIA -- Wednesday afternoon, Peter Gammons went on WEEI radio in Boston and said John Lackey could need Tommy John surgery.

Wednesday night, John Lackey took the mound for the Red Sox and allowed two runs in 7 2/3 innings, in one of his best starts of the year.

So does Lackey have a bad elbow, or is pitching well enough to finally help the Red Sox?

As crazy as it sounds, both could be true.

The Red Sox and Lackey took some shots at Gammons' report, but all they really disputed was the severity of the injury. Lackey does have elbow issues, but at the moment they're not so serious that they would keep him from pitching -- or, from the results Wednesday, even from pitching well.

Lackey would only say that his elbow feels better now than it did when he went on the disabled list in May.

"Probably not as good as some, better than others," he said. "I feel pretty good."

Define that however you want. Lackey wouldn't be the first pitcher to pitch with a ligament tear in his elbow (if that's indeed what he has).

"It's accurate to say he had an elbow injury, had a shot, and we'll continue to monitor it," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said.

Is this just like Daisuke Matsuzaka, where the Red Sox denied a report that he might need Tommy John surgery, only to later admit that he did? No, because Matsuzaka was on the disabled list at the time, and his elbow was sore enough that he couldn't pitch. Lackey is pitching, and even pitching well.

At least for now.

Category: MLB
Posted on: June 2, 2011 2:47 pm
Edited on: June 2, 2011 2:58 pm
 

Matsuzaka surgery likely next week

Daisuke Matsuzaka is headed for Tommy John surgery, probably next week, a baseball source confirmed to CBSSports.com on Thursday.

The news doesn't come as a big surprise, despite repeated denials from the Red Sox that Matsuzaka would need surgery. He complained of elbow pain as far back as April, and hasn't pitched since leaving a start on May 16. Japan's Nikkan Sports then reported Wednesday night that Matsuzaka had decided on surgery, and the source confirmed that decision on Thursday.

Matsuzaka's six-year, $52 million deal with the Red Sox runs through next season, but now he won't pitch for the rest of this year and for at least the start of the 2012 season. Matsuzaka has made 105 starts for Boston, going 49-30 with a 4.25 ERA.

The Red Sox have been without two starters, as John Lackey has also been on the disabled list. But Lackey is scheduled to return from the DL to start Sunday against the Mariners. The Sox have used Tim Wakefield and Alfredo Aceves as fill-in starters, and the team is 3-3 in the six starts they've made since Matsuzaka and Lackey went on the DL.

The Red Sox have also lost left-handed reliever Rich Hill, who had pitched eight scoreless innings before leaving Wednesday's game clutching his arm. The Boston Globe reported Thursday that Hill is also likely headed for season-ending surgery.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com