It defies belief, but my eyes and the box score agree. John Lackey just struck out 12 Rockies en route to a 5-3 Red Sox win.
If John Lackey was looking for an exclamation mark to put on his exceptional start to the season, he found one today. And, oddly enough, it came with a first-inning run attached. To be fair to Lackey, the two hits which resulted in that run were a shattered bat dribbler away from the shift from Carlos Gonzalez, and a solid-if-unspectacular single to right from Willin Rosario.
Of course, what made Lackey so impressive had nothing to do with balls in play. In the first two innings, Lackey recorded six outs on six strikeouts. While the Rockies adjusted to a more aggressive approach from there, it only increased the pace with which Lackey recorded outs. A bunt single was all that stopped Lackey from a 1-2-3 third on precious few pitches, and in the fourth it was right back to striking out the side around a Todd Helton double.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox had given him a sizable early lead against Roy Oswalt. Within the first five pitches of the bottom of the first, Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino had combined to erase the early Colorado advantage. From there, a wall ball double from David Ortiz made it 2-1, and Daniel Nava made it three runs with a ground ball that bounced sharply off the mound, and right off the second base bag into left field for a bit of a pinball RBI.
The Red Sox would strike again in the third, sending four straight runners to the bases to start the inning to make it 4-1. Unfortunately, they were not able to really cash in, only scoring one additional run on a sacrifice fly before the inning ended with the Sox up 5-1.
While it felt like a blowout between Lackey's dominance and Boston's early scoring, in the end this game would end up being nothing of the sort. After reaching double digits in strikeouts in the fifth, Lackey allowed a leadoff homer to Michael Cuddyer in the sixth, and then actually had the tying run come to the plate after another pair of hits followed. His eleventh strikeout and a fly ball would keep the score at 5-2, however, and he would finish his night after the seventh with twelve strikeouts and two earned runs (one of them very cheap indeed).
Had the Red Sox been capitalizing on opportunities, or even scored a run here and there in the final six frames, then Michael Cuddyer's second homer of the game--this time off of Junichi Tazawa--would not have provided the tension it did. As it was, though, it left the Sox up just two runs with six outs to go.
Those six outs, thankfully, would be uneventful. Tazawa locked down to get the game to the ninth, and while Koji Uehara hadn't pitched in nearly a week, you wouldn't know it from watching his first save as Boston's official closer. Tyler Colvin put up a long fight leading off the inning, but two strikeouts and a ground ball left the Red Sox winners of both games in their short series against the Rockies.
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