FORT MYERS, Fla. — John Lackey is keying in on that first regular-seaosn start.
Lackey pitched into the sixth inning Thursday, leading the Boston Red Sox to an 8-5 victory over the New York Mets.
The right-hander gave up a run and five hits in 5 1-3 innings. He walked one, hit a batter and struck out two. It was the first walk and hit batter Lackey has allowed in 15 2-3 innings this spring.
“I thought today he dialed it up a notch,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “You can see it’s getting closer to the start and he’s starting to smell it.”
Lackey threw 78 pitches, 46 for strikes.
“Felt I had pretty good arm strength, a lot better than last time,” Lackey said. “Though I didn’t locate as well as last time.”
Earlier in the day, manager Terry Francona revealed Boston’s pitching rotation. Lackey comes after Jon Lester, followed by Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon had another difficult appearance. He faced seven batters, recording just two outs, as he gave up four runs on two hits, two walks, and a hit batter.
“I still feel very locked in,” Papelbon said. “I’m just a tick off in my mechanics. I’m not searching. I know exactly where I am. I can feel it in my delivery. For me it’s not a big deal at all. A minor detail for me.”
Mets left-hander Jonathon Niese went five innings, giving up five runs — four earned — on seven hits and a walk. He had seven strikeouts.
Victimized by two errors and some sloppy fielding, Mets manager Terry Collins thought Niese pitched better than his line showed.
“He threw the ball very, very well,” Collins said. One inning, (Nate) Spears hit the ball hard. The (fielders) were probably playing a little too deep on (Jacoby) Ellsbury and Carl (Crawford) just hit one where nobody could catch it. But, I thought he threw the ball great.”
Niese, who threw 86 pitches, 57 strikes, will likely get to 100 pitches in each of his next two spring training starts before starting the regular season.
“I’m very, very happy (with where he is),” Collins said. “I thought there’s a couple things we’re going to work on that he needs to do. But I was very happy with the way he threw the ball. I think he’s right where he wants to be. He’s going to get to 100 pitches probably in two more starts, and I think he’ll be ready.”
Carl Crawford and Jed Lowrie each had two hits for Boston, and Drew Sutton hit a two-run homer.
Justin Turner went 2 for 2 with a run scored and three RBIs for the Mets.
NOTE: The Red Sox optioned Jose Iglesias, Yamaico Navarro, Luis Exposito, Lars Anderson, and Juan Carlos Linares to Triple-A Pawtucket. .