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Red Sox vs. Astros lineup: John Lackey returns (and I feel fine)

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John Lackey is back, and for some reason that doesn't feel like a reason for concern.

J. Meric

John Lackey is making his return to the mound for the Red Sox today, and for some reason it's not all that scary. Alfredo Aceves is scary. Steven Wright is scary. 2011 Kyle Weiland is scary. Andrew Miller and Daniel Bard starting are scary. But right now...getting John Lackey back is almost exciting.

Did four innings really make that much of a difference? Or is it his new svelte physique? For whatever reason, Boston having John Lackey as their fifth man doesn't seem like a condemnation of their rotation, but almost a statement of quality.

That, of course, can all change in the blink of an eye. If Lackey comes off the DL with an awful performance, well, it's going to be hard to remember those four innings in his first start. If his arm explodes again, it really won't matter how good he's looking. At least for now, though, there's a surprising hopefulness going into his second appearance of the year.

Boston Red Sox (17-7)

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
  2. Daniel Nava, RF
  3. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
  4. David Ortiz, DH
  5. Mike Napoli, 1B
  6. Mike Carp, LF
  7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
  8. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
  9. Stephen Drew, SS

Starting Pitcher -- John Lackey

Houston Astros (7-17)

  1. Robbie Grossman, CF
  2. Jose Altuve, 2B
  3. Jason Castro, C
  4. Carlos Pena, 1B
  5. Ronny Cedeno, DH
  6. Fernando Martinez, LF
  7. Matt Dominguez, 3B
  8. Rick Ankiel, RF
  9. Marwin Gonzalez, SS

Starting Pitcher -- Bud Norris

Will Middlebrooks has been killing the ball rather than the Red Sox over the past couple of games, but John Farrell is in no rush to move him up in the order. That's probably prudent--no need to mess with something that seems to be working, after all.

He and the rest of the Sox will get their biggest challenge of the series in Bud Norris. Not that that's saying a ton. Make no mistake, Bud Norris is a serviceable arm, but he's more akin to a back-end starter who can keep his team in games but rarely ever wins them single-handedly. The Red Sox should have their chances to score. It's just a question of whether or not they'll take advantage.

If there is one game in this series the Red Sox stand a decent chance of losing, this one is it. But the way they've been hitting, it really does seem like it will just be a matter of whether or not John Lackey can show some of the quality he did in his first start.

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