Boston Red Sox righthander John Lackey has pitched well enough to win probably three-quarters of his starts, but once again Sunday, the opposing guy was just a little better.
Lackey started slowly against the Kansas City Royals before righting the ship to go seven innings. Unfortunately, the Royals did all the damage they’d need over the first three innings and James Shields made those runs stand in Kansas City’s 4-3 victory.
“I found some things later on in the game, kind of got in the groove a little bit, but Shields was pitching pretty good, so a little too late,” Lackey said.
Lackey and manager John Farrell each dismissed the idea that the pitcher’s sprained left ankle played any role in his slow start.
“They had it taped so much, I would’ve had to break my leg to roll it again,” Lackey said. “It didn’t affect me.”
The big righthander allowed seven hits and four runs in seven innings, walking two and striking out five. He hasn’t won a game since July 12.
The two walks hurt him, though, because they came to the first two batters he faced and led to Kansas City’s first run after a double play briefly appeared to get Lackey out of the inning.
“Just kind of a grind early,” Lackey said. “I wasn’t feeling real great. Kind of missing some location, got a couple of 3-2 counts, didn’t make the pitch, put myself in a little trouble in the first and was lucky to get a groundball double play to get out of that one.
“I think it’s unusual for me to walk two people in an inning anytime, much less the first inning. It doesn’t happen very often, 3-2 counts are a little bit different against a team that likes to swing a lot, so you can’t just give in. But I didn’t execute. Kind of put myself in a tough spot right out of the gate.”
RED SOX NOTES: RHP Ryan Dempster, who will start the series opener Tuesday, is 1-1 with a 4.96 ERA in three starts this season against the Blue Jays. He is 1-1 with a 5.10 ERA in six career games, five of them starts, against the Jays. … INF Brandon Snyder (right elbow ulnar neuritis) was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Thursday. In 21 games for the Sox this season, Snyder has hit .209 with two homers and seven RBIs. … LHP Franklin Morales was activated from the 15-day disabled list. He originally went on the 15-day disabled list June 23. … RHP Pedro Beato was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. Beato has a 3.60 ERA on 10 innings pitch with Boston this season.
In a division full of above-.500 teams, the Boston Red Sox get the luxury of facing the one club below the break-even mark. Visiting Boston looks to remain atop the American League East as it opens a three-game series with the cellar-dwelling Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday. The Red Sox hope to bounce back after dropping three of four in Kansas City; the Blue Jays also are in a tailspin, having lost three of four to visiting Oakland.
Boston enters the week with a three-game lead over Tampa Bay, benefiting greatly from the Rays’ five-game losing streak. Hard-throwing right-hander Ryan Dempster gets the start in Tuesday’s series opener, facing the Blue Jays for the fourth time already this season. He’ll be opposed by Todd Redmond, who is looking for his first victory in more than a month.
TV: 7:07 p.m. Tuesday, NESN (Boston), RSN (Toronto).
PITCHING MATCHUP: Red Sox RH Ryan Dempster (6-8, 4.67 ERA) vs. Blue Jays RH Todd Redmond (1-1, 4.22).
Dempster’s lone 2013 visit to his native Canada was a good one, as he limited the Blue Jays to a run on four hits over six effective innings. The 36-year-old has struggled mightily in August, surrendering 12 runs over 12 frames in consecutive no-decisions against Seattle and Houston. “I threw a lot of good, quality pitches,” he said following Boston’s 7-5 win over the Astros. “That’s probably the best I’ve felt in a while. Unfortunately, I did not have much to show for it.”
Redmond has averaged better than a strikeout per inning in each of his last four starts but hasn’t lasted long enough to earn a win. The 28-year-old worked just 3 2/3 frames in his last outing — surrendering three runs on seven hits to the Los Angeles Angels — and has made it through six just once all season. Redmond has been particularly stingy at the Rogers Centre, going 1-0 with a 2.75 ERA and 22 strikeouts over 19 2/3 innings.
GAME NOTES: The Red Sox lead the season series 8-5. … Members of the Blue Jays roster are hitting just .226 in 146 at-bats against Dempster. … Redmond is starting in place of RHP Josh Johnson, who is dealing with arm soreness.
MLB NOTEBOOK: Los Angeles Angels young superstar outfielder Mike Trout told New York radio station WFAN on Monday that performance-enhancing drug offenders should be banned for life.
“To me, personally, I think you should be out of the game if you get caught,” he said. “It takes away from the guys that are working hard every day and doing it all-natural.”
Players are speaking out since New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and 13 others were suspended stemming from the Biogenesis scandal. Rodriguez is appealing a 211-game ban and 12 players are serving 50-game suspensions. Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun was previously given a 65-game ban.
Trout, the American League Rookie of the Year last season, said he is frustrated because some players use PEDs while claiming he has stayed clean.
“Some people just are just trying to find that extra edge,” he said. “It’s tough as a guy that goes out there and plays hard every day and puts (in) 110 percent effort … to wake up, see there’s a list of guys that are on the list. It’s good that MLB caught them and they’re moving in the right direction with suspensions and stuff.”
Trout is batting .330 with a .425 on-base percentage, 20 home runs, 73 RBI and 26 stolen bases this season.