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John Lackey on Nelson Cruz: ‘There are things I’d like to say, but I’m not going to’

07.06.14 at 12:37 am ET
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Saturday night left a bitter and disgusting taste in the mouth of John Lackey.

It wasn’t so much the 10 hits, five runs and 120 pitches over just 5 2/3 innings. It wasn’t even taking the 7-4 loss to the Orioles on his record, dropping him to 9-6 on the season.

It was the man who did the most damage against him, including a laser beam homer to left in the fifth. John Lackey clearly hasn’t forgotten or forgiven Nelson Cruz.

“I’m not even going to comment on him,” Lackey said. “I’ve got nothing to say about him. There are things I’d like to say, but I’m not going to. You guys forget pretty conveniently about stuff.”

Lackey was clearly referring to Cruz’ suspension for 50 games for PED violations in 2013, which he believes has been overlooked by the media in general. Cruz, now with 27 homers on the season, also went yard off Lackey in second game of this season back on April 2 in Baltimore. Cruz finished the night with the first five-hit night of his career, including two doubles, two singles and a home run. Seeking the cycle, he was thrown out at third base in the eighth inning trying to stretch a double into a triple.

“As soon as I saw it went over [Daniel Nava's] head, I have to make a shot to make it happen,” Cruz said. “My angle around first, it was bad so I had to go a long way from second base. I’m happy we won.”

“If you can’t enjoy that and take it the [right] way, you’re taking yourself way too seriously,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I’m glad they didn’t hit the first cutoff guy. At least it was close. They’re all screaming at me to do the replay.”

There was nothing funny, though, about Cruz’ night to Lackey, who has expressed distaste in his comments towards the Orioles’ slugger in the past. After his first start of the season in Baltimore on April 2, Lackey expressed displeasure towards giving up a home run to Cruz due to the hitter’s history with performance enhancing drugs. Cruz was suspended for 50 games at the end of the 2013 season after being linked to the Biogenesis clinic in Miami. Lackey’s feelings towards Cruz seemingly carried over into his postgame comments Saturday night.

“Multiple things,” Lackey said in April when asked if his frustration regarding a two-run home run he allowed to Cruz was due to a pitch or the shallow left field in Camden Yards. “More than that, probably.”

Unlike his last couple of starts, including his performance against the Mariners when he went 3 2/3 innings allowing seven runs on seven hits, two walks, three strikeouts and a home run, Lackey was satisfied with the stuff that he had, noting that he felt he simply made a couple of mistakes in execution that led to the Orioles’ runs.

Beyond Cruz’ night against Boston, both Lackey and Red Sox manager John Farrell said that the hurler had very good stuff. Both Lackey and Farrell pointed to the righty’s ten strikeouts as evidence of the quality of the pitcher’s arsenal on Saturday.

“A lot of swing and miss to his fastball and his breaking ball alike,” Farrell said. “A high number of strikeouts runs his pitch count up there. Because he does throw so many strikes, he’s around the plate. I think over the past three or four starts, [home runs] has been mixed in a little bit more. He goes into the sixth inning with a lead and they bunch of hits together and unfortunately, we come away on the down side.”

“Honestly, it’s about as good stuff I’ve had all year,” Lackey said. “Still trying to find out what happened. I honestly don’t know how I gave up five runs. You’ve got to give their guys a lot of credit. A tough line up. Made a couple of mistakes and they hit a couple of balls out of the park.”

Lackey has struggled with keeping the ball in the ballpark recently. The 35-year-old allowed five home runs to the Orioles, Yankees and Mariners in his last three starts combined dating back to June 23. Farrell says it is not uncommon for pitchers who throw a high percentage of strikes, such as Lackey, to give up home runs.

“I don’t think anytime you execute a strike or a pitch, you’re thinking about it going out of the ballpark,” Farrell said. “Opposing hitters know he’s going to be on the plate. Because he is on the plate so often, he’s usually been efficient, worked deep into games, which has been the trade of John Lackey this year.”

Given the Orioles’ aggressive approach at the plate, Lackey says he needs to change up his pitches frequently to keep hitters off his fastball.

“You definitely change it up,” Lackey said. “Try to throw the four seamers, two seamers. Try to make it move a little bit. They’ve got a good lineup. It seemed like every time they touched the ball, it was a hit. They were finding holes. It was basically a strikeout or a hit.”

Lackey emphasized that he felt his stuff was strong tonight and that he’d take how he was throwing on Saturday on any given day.

“I was locating well tonight,” he said. “Just made a couple of mistakes on the homers, but other than that, I’ll take my chances.”

Mike Petraglia contributed to this report.

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