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Closing Time: John Lackey helps lead Red Sox to sweep of Astros

04.28.13 at 4:31 pm ET

John Lackey picked up right where he left off before suffering his injury scare in Toronto.

The Red Sox starter allowed one run on five hits over six innings, leading his team to a 6-1 win over the Astros Sunday at Fenway Park. Lackey’s ERA after two starts stands at 2.61, having given up two runs over 4 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays before leaving with a strained right biceps.

‘€œA healthy John Lackey, one who’€™s capable of a career that has been very good, he gives us a huge boost, not in terms of just innings alone, the number of innings that he can pitch, but the performance,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “When you look back to when he was healthy, we can all recognize the last couple of years have been as much competing against his own body as it has been the opponent. He’€™s in a good place right now, and there were no physical issues today. He came out of today fine. He does give us a seasoned veteran and a very good pitcher in that spot in the rotation.”

Farrell added, “I thought the ball got out of his hand better than expected, not only in terms of velocity but in the action to which some of his pitches showed at the bottom of the strike zone, whether it was a two-seamer to get a number of ground balls. He had a good cutter. Consistent sharpness to his curveball, as we saw in Toronto in his first outing. Honestly, it was better than expected in most ways today.”

The win was Lackey’s first since Aug. 23, 2011 at Texas (614 days), snapping a career-long stretch of seven starts without a victory.

With the victory — the Red Sox’ 18th of the season (18-7) — the Sox have now matched their total number of series sweeps for the entire 2012 campaign (3). It was their fifth straight win, and matched the most victories the franchise has ever totaled in April (1998, 2002).

The game ended on a diving catch by Daniel Nava in which the right fielder extended his entire body in hauling in Robbie Grossman’s deep flay ball.

Here is what went right (and wrong) in the Sox’ latest win:


David Ortiz didn’t skip a beat, driving in the Red Sox’ first run via a one-out RBI single, plating Nava (double). The hit made the DH 12-for-15 against right-handed pitching, and 7-for-14 with two strikes. Ortiz would later add to his production with an RBI double into the right field corner in the seventh. The designated hitter currently carries a .516 batting average (16-for-31) after eight games.

Stephen Drew broke a 1-1 tie with a triple to right field in the fourth, scoring Mike Carp and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (both of whom had singled). It marked the second multi-RBI game of the season for Drew, who has now reached base in six of his last eight games.

Dustin Pedroia remained on fire, this time making it a 4-1 game with his fifth-inning double down the left field line, scoring Nava. It marked the fourth straight game the second baseman — who came into the game hitting .364 with a .930 OPS on the homestand — has notched at least one RBI. Carp would quickly drive in Pedroia with a double of his own, off the left field wall.

– Lackey got out of a huge jam in his final inning, stranding the bases-loaded in the sixth inning. With the bags full, and the Red Sox holding a 5-1 lead, the starter struck out Fernando Martinez before getting Matt Dominguez to ground out to shorstop. Lackey finished his outing getting nine of his 14 outs on the ground.

– With two outs in the second inning, Nava saved a run by going back to the warning track in right field and hauling in Robbie Grossman’s drive via a basket catch.

– The Red Sox forced Houston starter Bud Norris to throw 29 pitches in the first inning. The Astros Opening Day starter would need 108 pitches to get through six innings. The Red Sox have seen more first-inning pitches than any team in baseball.


– Lackey struggled out of the gate. After retiring his first two batters, the righty allowed walks to Jason Castro and Carlos Pena before giving up Ronny Cedeno’s run-scoring single.

Jacoby Ellsbury was caught attempting to steal for the first time this season, getting gunned down by Castro at second with two outs in the second inning. The outfielder had been successful in his first 11 attempts this season, setting a new organizational record for most swipes in the month of April.

Mike Napoli’s pop-up to shallow right field fell in between three Astros fielders in the fourth. But the Red Sox’ baserunner got greedy, trying to stretch Houston’s misfortune into two bases. The result was Napoli being thrown out at second for the inning’s first out.

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