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John Lackey takes a beating, hits a wall and lives to tell, Red Sox running game runs afoul

03.22.14 at 2:59 pm ET
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John Lackey took a beating on Saturday at Disney. (AP)

John Lackey took a beating on Saturday at Disney. (AP)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — John Lackey took quite the beating Saturday at Disney.

The veteran right-hander allowed 10 hits, including a pair of high-fly homers, and five runs over 4 2/3 innings as the Red Sox fell to the the Braves at Champion Stadium, 6-3, in his third start of the spring. He’s given up 20 hits and 13 earned runs over 12 1/3 innings this March. Lackey did not walk a batter and struck out six. His spring ERA rose to 9.49. Lackey, the projected No. 2 starter, will make one more spring appearance on Thursday before taking the mound for real on April 2 in Baltimore.

Lackey was not concerned about the number of hits he’s given up in three starts.

“It’s spring training, man. I’m not real concerned about a whole lot right now,” Lackey said. “I’m just trying to build up some arm strength and get ready for the real deal.

“I feel pretty good. I’m definitely not quite ready. I’ll still be building arm strength for a few more weeks, to be honest with you. I’ll be good enough to compete and should be just fine.”

The third inning was the most eventful of the day for the Red Sox right-hander. He struck out pitcher Alex Wood. Then speedy Jordan Schafer attempted to bunt his way on with a drag attempt to the first base side. Schafer popped it up a bit and it landed in the triangle between first base, second base and the pitcher’s mound. Lackey fielded the ball, lost his footing but not before scooping it with his glove hand to Daniel Nava at first for the out on a terrific play.

Lackey was slow to get up after falling on his right knee somewhat awkwardly, and catcher A.J. Pierzynski called out manager John Farrell and trainer Rick Jameyson. After about 30 seconds on the mound, Lackey went back to work and gave up a high, wind-blown home run just over the wall in left to Andrelton Simmons, the first homer he’s allowed in three spring starts.

The next batter, Braves slugger Freddie Freeman, then ripped a liner back to the box that hit off Lackey’s backside. Lackey recovered quickly but could not retire Freeman, whom Lackey drilled on the back trying to throw him out as Freeman crossed the bag at first.

“Makes a heck of a play, came out of it without turning an ankle,” manager John Farrell said. “It kind of looked like an awkward play. But then the line drive drive fortunately catches him in the flesh part of the leg. We were able to avoid anything more severe.”

“It got me in the thigh, the big part so I’m fine,” Lackey said of the Freeman liner.

As for the bunt?

“A.J. was just being funny, giving me a rest,” Lackey said. “I was fine, nothing happened on that.

Dustin Pedroia was laughing with Lackey coming off the field and congratulated Lackey on his Pedroia-like scoop play. “I just asked if he liked that. He was pretty fired up,” Lackey said.

Again, Farrell and Jameyson came out to tend to Lackey and again the right-hander quickly sent them back to the Red Sox dugout after assuring them that he was fine. Lackey fanned Chris Johnson swinging on an effective 84 MPH slider down and away.

Lackey gave up two more sharp hits in the fourth and was eventually knocked from the game in the fifth when he Simmons laid down a perfect bunt and – two batters later – Dan Uggla skied the second Braves homer of the day to left field to put Atlanta up, 5-1. Ryan Doumit followed with a long double to center and John Farrell came out to get Lackey, who finished with 87 pitches, 60 strikes.

“I felt fine. I felt like I threw the ball better this time than last time,” Lackey said. “I had a good bullpen session in between. My slider was better this time, threw a couple of a good ones. The last one I threw for the homer wasn’t a good one. I got up to 80-something pitches and it was a good day.”

“Overall, a couple of breaking balls didn’t get to the spot that he was intending,” Farrell said. “Anything in the air to left is going to carry out of here today. Eighty-seven pitches on the day and in terms of the workload, a progressive step. But still, there were some balls that found the middle of the plate today.”

  • A base-running gaffe kept the Red Sox out of a big inning in the fourth. Daniel Nava and Shane Victorino opened with singles to left off Atlanta starter Alex Wood. Following a Dustin Pedroia fly out to center, Victorino took off for second but Nava stayed put between second and third and was eventually thrown out in a rundown. Mike Napoli followed with an RBI bloop single to right that scored Victorino and cut Atlanta’s lead to 2-1. Pierzynski singled to center but Xander Bogaerts struck out swinging for the final out.
  • The Red Sox put out a lineup that featured the projected starting infield. Mike Napoli, however, did not play first base. He served as the designated hitter while Nava played first. David Ortiz, getting the day off back in Fort Myers, and Grady Sizemore did not make the trip.
  • It was not a good day on the bases, specifically for Nava. Victorino was thrown out at second in the first on a inning-ending strike out, caught stealing double play that ended the first inning. Two innings later, Nava was then caught in a run down between second and third when Victorino took off for second. “Nava gave two shuffles and then when a base runner crosses over with the intent of taking off, and that was what Vic was reading and ended up running up the back of him,” Farrell said. “As we’ve talked about before with Daniel, we’re trying to take opportunities to become a little bit more aggressive with him on the base paths with him for him to test his limits a little bit more. We continue to learn along the way. If they’re going to be 1-2 in the lineup a lot of times, what Vic has to do is read him a little bit longer, and that wasn’t the case today.” And in the sixth, Nava was picked off first and caught in a run down between first and second.
  • Victorino and Pedroia each had two hits and the Red Sox scored two in the seventh, including one on an RBI double by Xander Bogaerts.
  • Back in Fort Myers, in a Single-A minor league game, Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa both got work in, each throwing an inning. Uehara struck out the side on 12 pitches while Tazawa allowed two hits and struck out two in his scoreless inning of work.
  • Freddie Freeman went 4-for-4 against Red Sox pitching on the afternoon and is hitting .356 this spring.
Read More: Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, john lackey, MLB
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