The matchup was one that makes you reach with equal urgency for the remote control, and some Pepto-Bismol. John Lackey vs. James Shields? One wondered whether we were allowed to simply forfeit and save the bullpen.
But two amazing things happened today: John Lacky was pretty good, and the Sox went to town on James Shields in the first four innings to back him up when he was let down by the defense. And, yes, the Sox won.
The shoddy defense in question was pretty much entirely belonging to Marco Scutaro, who managed to screw up three of the first four plays of the game with a couple of bad throws and a wild slide that let at least four outs get away from the Sox. The Rays would push across three runs in the inning, none of which would have scored without the shortstop's mistakes.
The Sox quickly got the runs back, though, picking up a two-run homer from Josh Reddick after Kelly Shoppach dropped a 3-2 foul tip, and then three more on a pair of third inning doubles from David Ortiz and J.D. Drew after Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis reached to start the frame. Jacoby Ellsbury added a sixth run in the fourth with his thirteenth homer of the year. Not one to be outdone, Dustin Pedroia hit his own thirteenth (making...OK, let me get these straight...three straight games with a homer, five homers in his last six, and six homers in his last eight) to make it 7-3 after Shields left the game before the seventh.
Meanwhile, John Lackey had turned things around completely. After a terible second inning resulted in no runs thanks to a timely double play, Lackey just started striking everyone out, recording five of the next six outs by way of the K. A home run to Matt Joyce in the fifth was a notable blemish, but was more a matter of Joyce putting a great swing on a good pitch. Lackey had to leave with only two outs in the sixth after another error behind him, but really this was a very impressive showing against a pretty good team.
Lackey handed it over to Randy Williams and Daniel Bard, who kept the Rays in check before the Sox pushed across a couple of insurance runs in the ninth. Unfortunately, this made it a non-save situation for Jonathan Papelbon, which of course meant it wasn't going to be clean. It only took one run for the closer to escape the inning, however, leaving the Sox 9-5 winners.
Now to make it a series win with Josh Beckett on the mound tomorrow. The rotation is still looking pretty sketchy, but it's nice to at least have a bit of hope for Lackey.