BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox are finally getting their money’s worth out of John Lackey.
The veteran righthander, signed to a five-year, $82.5 million free agent contract prior to the 2011 season, pitched hurt that season, was booed by the Fenway Park faithful and then missed 2012 due to Tommy John surgery.
Now, he’s back. And he’s pitching like the pitcher Boston thought it was getting in the first place.
Lackey threw eight innings — the first time he’s gone eight since June 17, 2011 — and new contributor Brandon Snyder cleared the bases with a three-run double in the fourth, sending the again-hot Red Sox to a 4-1 interleague victory over the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night.
“He’s on a great roll,” manager John Farrell said of Lackey after his first-place team moved to 17 games over .500 (51-34) for the first time this season. “I think this is now four or five in a row where it’s been two runs or less, seven innings each time or more.
“The last three outings it looks like his arm strength continues to build; we’re seeing some velocities on the board that we haven’t seen in quite awhile from him.”
Actually, it has been the last four outings that Lackey (6-5) has gone at least seven innings and yielded two runs or fewer. He has a three-game winning streak and hasn’t lost since May 29. Lackey walked three in those four games, four in his last six.
On Tuesday, he yielded only a home run to Jesus Guzman in the seventh inning. He gave up six hits, walked one and struck out six.
“My arm’s feeling pretty good right now, and it’s fun to let it loose a little bit and not feel anything,” Lackey said.
And the fans are loving what Lackey’s doing.
Asked if he’s won the crowd back, Lackey said, “I don’t know. I’m going out pitching and pitching well. I think that’s all they want to see, I guess. Hopefully that’s enough.”
Said Farrell, talking about the fans, “It’s certainly an improvement over (two years ago). I think, as he would probably admit, it’s a work in progress. He recognized that some things had to change, and it all started with his performance on the mound, and it’s been very good.”
Koji Uehara, who blew a save chance Sunday and ended up with the win, worked a perfect ninth for his fifth save of the season and his fourth since taking over for struggling Andrew Bailey.
The Red Sox had four guys thrown out on the bases, including one at home from the outfield for the third time in four games. However, with Lackey throwing, and with Snyder having his second straight big start, they won for the sixth time in seven games on this homestand.
Heady plays by left fielder Ryan Gomes and second baseman Dustin Pedroia kept the Padres off the board in the fifth. First, Gomes deked Nick Hundley into only going from second to third on Alexi Amarista’s wall single. Then, Pedro Ciriaco, traded from Boston to San Diego last month, hit a grounder to third. Snyder threw to second as Hundley headed for home. Pedroia, knowing how hard it would be to double up Ciriaco, threw home — and Hundley headed back to third.
So, instead it becoming 3-1, it stayed 3-0 and Lackey got out of the jam.
“It’s Pedey’s presence of mind,” Farrell said.
Snyder, who had a two-run double and a single in his first start Sunday (with Stephen Drew hurt), came through with the hit that chased rookie Robbie Erlin (1-1). The hit came after Snyder hit one foul down the line.
“It’s been amazing,” Snyder said of his Red Sox experience. “It’s just an awesome feeling to have that trust in me. Big shoes to fill in up here. I’m just trying to do my part.”
Jose Iglesias singled home the other Boston run in the sixth inning.
The Padres have lost three straight and 10 of their last 14.
“John pitched well,” said San Diego manager Bud Black, Lackey’s former pitching coach with the Angels. “He was hitting spots with the fastball. Fastball at the top of the zone was outstanding, the good hard slider, good breaking ball.
“We couldn’t solve him.”
Erlin’s loss gave rookie pitchers a 1-8 record and 8.13 ERA against Boston this season.
Pedroia was thrown out at the plate after a David Ortiz double (the 500th double of Ortiz’s career) in the first inning. Or was he? It looked as if Pedroia missed the plate but that catcher Hundley never tagged him. Umpire Paul Nauert called the runner out, even though Pedroia crawled back to touch the plate.
NOTES: Ortiz is the 58th player, the fifth still active, with 500 doubles. … Boston CF Jacoby Ellsbury had two hits to extend his hitting streak to 12 games, during which he’s batting .412. He also swiped his big-league-leading 33rd base. … Celtics top draft pick Kelly Olynyk was at the game and on the field during pregame. … The game marked the first managerial matchup of Black and Farrell, ex-pitching staff mates with the Indians. … Injury update for Boston: Disabled RHP Clay Buchholz started a throwing program as he recovers from an inflamed bursa sac in his right shoulder. Drew continues to make progress with his strained right hamstring. … San Diego RHP Edinson Volquez faces LHP Jon Lester in Wednesday night’s second game of the three-game series. … Padres first base coach Dave Roberts, a Red Sox hero for his 2004 playoff stolen base, received a nice ovation when introduced before the game. Ex-Red Sox Glenn Hoffman (third base coach), Phil Plantier (hitting coach) and Mark Loretta (special assistant, baseball operations) are also with the Padres. Ciriaco, who stole two bases in the game, also was well-received.
TIGERS 7, BLUE JAYS 6: Torii Hunter drove in the winning run in the eighth inning with his fourth single of the game as the Detroit Tigers defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 7-6 on Tuesday.
Miguel Cabrera hit a three-run homer for the Tigers (44-38) and Colby Rasmus drove in four runs with a double and a home run for the Blue Jays (41-42) before a crowd of 27,189 at Rogers Centre.
Blue Jays starter Chien-Ming Wang could not hold a 4-0 first-inning lead and allowed eight hits and six runs in 1 2/3 innings. The right-hander also pitched 1 2/3 innings in his previous start, allowing seven runs against the Boston Red Sox on June 27.
Tigers right-hander Doug Fister allowed six runs and six hits in the first two innings but gathered himself and pitched six innings, allowing only a single to his 14 batters.
Right-hander Al Alburquerque (1-1) replaced Fister to pitch the seventh and allowed only a walk to pick up the win. Right-hander Joaquin Benoit pitched the ninth for his sixth save of the season.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was ejected for the fourth time this season by plate umpire Alan Porter as he came out to argue during Munenori Kawasaki’s at-bat with one out and nobody on base in the ninth. Kawasaki eventually struck out. Jose Reyes grounded out to end the game.
The Blue Jays used left-handers Juan Perez, Aaron Loup and Brett Cecil to take the game to eighth inning when right-hander Neil Wagner (1-3) took over.
Wagner allowed a leadoff single to Omar Infante who took second on Alex Avila’s sacrifice and moved to third on Austin Jackson’s fly out to deep center. He scored on Hunter’s infield single to shortstop that deflected off Wagner. Reyes had to change direction to reach the ball before throwing to first as Hunter made it on a close play.
Left-hander Drew Smyly pitched the eighth for the Tigers.
The Blue Jays scored four runs in the first inning. Jose Reyes led off with a single, took second when Rajai Davis became the major-league leading 13th batter hit by Fister this season and scored on Jose Bautista’s single. Rasmus drove in two runs with a ground-rule double to left and eventually scored on Josh Thole’s infield single to third.
The Tigers scored six runs in the second, three on Cabrera’s 26th homer of the season, a drive to center that made it 6-4.
Detroit already had scored three runs in the inning, one on a double by Omar Infante and two on a double by Alex Avila. Left-hander Juan Perez replaced Wang to finish the inning.
The Blue Jays tied the score in the bottom of the second when Rasmus hit his 15th homer of the season after Bautista walked with two outs.
NOTES: Avila (bruised forearm) was activated from the disabled list. … The Tigers will appeal the six-game suspension assessed RHP Rick Porcello for what Major League Baseball ruled was intentionally throwing a pitch at Tampa Bay OF-INF Ben Zobrist in the first inning of Sunday’s game at Tropicana Field. … The Tigers expect RHP Anibal Sanchez (shoulder strain) to return from the disabled list to start Saturday at Cleveland. … The Blue Jays were without C J.P. Arencibia (shoulder), 1B Edwin Encarnacion (right hamstring) and Adam Lind (back) in the starting lineup. … Blue Jays LHP J.A. Happ (skull fracture, knee sprain) and RHP Brandon Morrow (forearm) are not expected to return until August. … RHP Max Scherzer (12-0, 3.10 ERA) will start Wednesday for the Tigers against Toronto RHP Josh Johnson (1-2, 5.21 ERA).