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Friday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: John Lackey vs. Chris Tillman 04.18.14 at 8:47 am ET
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The Red Sox kick off a seven-game homestand Friday when they send John Lackey to the mound against the Orioles and Chris Tillman.

Lackey will come into his fourth start of the season after picking up his first loss in his last outing, a weekend tilt against the Yankees. The veteran righty failed to make it through the sixth inning after he allowed six earned runs and 10 hits over 5 2/3 innings. Despite a two-run seventh, Boston could not overcome the deficit, eventually losing the game 7-4

“He paid for some pitches that were up in the strike zone,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said, (via MLB.com). “Warmer weather, the ball was really carrying here today, but still, it was the mistakes up in the strike zone today.”

Lackey last faced off against the Orioles during Boston’s first win of the season. Over six innings on the mound, Lackey gave up two earned runs on three hits with six strikeouts en route to a 6-2 Sox win. The two runs came on a home run by Nelson Cruz during the fourth inning. Overall, Lackey holds a 14-5 record with a 3.33 ERA and a WHIP of 1.19 in 24 starts against Baltimore.

Like Lackey, Tillman enters Friday’€™s game after picking up his first loss of the season. Tillman gave up two runs, neither of which was earned, on three hits over eight innings against the Blue Jays on April 11. Baltimore ultimately lost the game 2-0.

Tillman last took on the Red Sox during the Orioles’ Opening Day win on March 31. Tillman received a no-decision after he gave up one earned run on seven hits over five innings. The lone run came on a solo home run by Grady Sizemore. The 26-year-old righty, who has a 1-1 record with a 0.84 ERA this season, has a career 4-2 record against the Red Sox with a 2.67 ERA and a WHIP of 1.26.

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Saturday’s Red Sox-Yankees matchups: John Lackey vs. Hiroki Kuroda 04.12.14 at 9:08 am ET
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The Red Sox will head into the second half of their four-game series with the Yankees on Saturday when John Lackey takes the mound against Hiroki Kuroda in the Bronx.

In the very early goings of the 2014 season, Lackey has had the most success of any of the Red Sox starters. Lackey comes into Saturday’€™s start after giving up one unearned run on five hits over seven innings against the Rangers on April 7. Boston went on to win the game 5-1.

“It’€™s been a lot of fastball action early on,” Lackey, who is 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA, said after his outing against Texas. “So far, my arm has been feeling pretty good. I’ve been challenging guys and trying to get ahead in the count, and A.J. [Pierzynski] called a great game again for me tonight. I was able to get ahead and dictate some at-bats and it makes things go a little bit faster.

“I definitely want to pound the strike zone. I want them to know that I’€™m going to throw strikes. If you’€™re going to get me, you better get me quick [in the count] because I’€™m coming after you, for sure. It can work both ways, if you’€™re not locating well, you can give it up pretty quick, too, that way. Just have to continue to locate and hopefully keep pitch counts down and get deep into games.”

Lackey last faced off against the Yankees and Kuroda on Sept. 13, 2013, when he did not factor into the decision after he gave up four runs on seven hits over 6 1/3 innings. He also gave up a solo home run to Brendan Ryan during the third. Kuroda eventually earned the loss after he gave up five runs on eight hits in six innings.

Kuroda also comes into Saturday’€™s game after picking up a win in his most recent outing. The 39-year-old righty gave up two runs on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings on April 7 during the Yankees‘ 4-2 victory over the Orioles. Kuroda is 1-1 with a 2.92 ERA and a WHIP of 0.97 in two starts this season.

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Ben Cherington on D&C: John Lackey likely ‘going to keep pitching past 2015’ 04.10.14 at 10:30 am ET
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Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday to discuss the beginning of the season and pitching contracts. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

After saying during the spring that they were turning the page on last year, the Red Sox have gone 4-5 during the first two weeks of the 2014 season.

“I think doing it is a little more difficult than saying it,” Cherington said. “I think we’re in the process of doing it. We’ve had a couple of reminders early in the season, reminders of last year — obviously great reminders and good reasons to be reminded.

“I think once we get into a normal routine, and this road trip might represent that normal routine, we’ll see if the team is more fully turning the page.”

Veteran pitcher John Lackey has won two of those games, but, due to a stipulation in his contract, Lackey is set to make the league minimum during the 2015 season.

“John’s one of the most accountable, reliable guys in our clubhouse,” Cherington said. “And one of the things, even when things weren’t going as well for him in Boston, he was always one of the most reliable guys. … He already has a high degree of accountability, and I think he understands the contract he signed.

“It’s also clear the way he’s throwing right now that in all likelihood he’€™s going to keep pitching past 2015, so he’s got a lot of reasons to keep pitching. He certainly looks more than capable of pitching for a while, and he’s got the kind of body and delivery and command. He’s the type of guy that could pitch for a while longer if he wants to, so it is a bit of an unusual situation, but it was part of the contract that was agreed to, and I think the way it looks like right now, we would all expect for John to sign another contract at some point and continue through 2015.”

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An ‘aggressive’ John Lackey is a good John Lackey 04.08.14 at 12:07 am ET
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John Lackey was zoned in Monday night as he won his second game in as many starts. (AP)

John Lackey was zoned in Monday night as he won his second game in as many starts. (AP)

When it comes to taking the mound every fifth day, John Lackey has learned that he’s best when he doesn’t mess around.

Sporting an early season repertoire that has included more fastballs and less curves, Lackey has been getting ahead in the count and sending a message to hitters — get me early or don’t get me at all. Lackey was efficient, and at times dominating, allowing just five hits and one run, while walking two and striking out five in seven innings as the Red Sox beat the Rangers, 5-1.

“It’s been a lot of fastball action early on. So far, my arm has been feeling pretty good,” Lackey said. “I’ve been challenging guys and trying to get ahead in the count, and A.J. [Pierzynski] called a great game again for me tonight. I was able to get ahead and dictate some at-bats and it makes things go a little bit faster.

“I definitely want to pound the strike zone. I want them to know that I’m going to throw strikes. If you’re going to get me, you better get me quick [in the count] because I’m coming after you for sure. It can work both ways, if you’re not locating well, you can give it up pretty quick, too, that way. Just have to continue to locate and hopefully keep pitch counts down and get deep into games.”

After going six solid innings (90 pitches) in Baltimore on April 2, leading the Red Sox to their first win of the season, Lackey took the hill Monday at Fenway, the same mound that he stood on while clinching Game 6 of the 2013 World Series. Ironically, it was also the last time the Red Sox had won at Fenway after being swept by the Brewers in the home opening series over the weekend.

But if there’s anyone on the staff that knows something about stopping a losing streak, it’s Lackey. He’s been an ace longer than Jon Lester. And on Monday night, the Red Sox needed a pitcher to take the mound who could give the Red Sox a chance to avoid their first four-game losing streak since losing eight straight to end 2012.

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Monday’s Red Sox-Rangers matchups: John Lackey vs. Tanner Scheppers 04.07.14 at 10:55 am ET
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The Red Sox will look to bounce back from a sweep at the hands of the Brewers when they send John Lackey to the mound Monday evening against Rangers righty Tanner Scheppers.

Lackey comes into the game after kicking off his season with a 6-2 win on April 2 against the Orioles. The veteran right-hander gave up just two earned runs on three hits over six innings and struck out six en route to Boston’€™s first victory of the season.

After the win, Lackey, who tossed just 90 pitches, credited new Boston backstop A.J. Pierzynski with some of the outing’€™s success.

“I always try to work pretty quick, especially when you’€™re throwing strikes and feeling pretty good about it,” Lackey said. “A.J. called a great game. That helps a lot with tempo when you don’€™t really have to think too much about what pitch you want to throw. When he’€™s throwing down the one you’€™re looking for, things kind of roll pretty good.”

Lackey historically has struggled against the Rangers, as he is just one of two pitchers with at least 29 starts against Texas to have a losing record. The 35-year-old is an overall 12-15 in 38 starts vs. the Rangers with a 6.01 ERA and a WHIP of 1.59. He last faced off against the Rangers on June 5, 2013, when he got a no-decision after giving up one run on five hits with five strikeouts over six innings. Boston ultimately lost the game 3-2 after Craig Breslow gave up two runs in the seventh.

Scheppers, who is in his third season at the major league level, has limited experience against the Red Sox, with just five relief appearances against Boston. Scheppers’€™ last outing against the Sox came on June 6, 2013, when he came in for the eighth and struck out two batters while walking one in a scoreless inning.

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John Lackey played a ‘bit of country hardball’ on the way to his win 04.02.14 at 11:56 pm ET
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BALTIMORE —  John Lackey is feeling good about himself.

Sure, the results in the Red Sox‘€™ 6-2 win over would suggest there is some confidence brewing in Lackey. He did, after all, turn in six solid innings against the Orioles, allowing just two runs while striking out six.

But it was also the manner in which Lackey talked about Wednesday night which would leave one to believe the misery of 2011 had crept even further away with the start of ‘€™14.

Take, for instance, his response to finally receiving run support (an issue he faced throughout last season): “Yeah, I’m not really worried about last year. I’m not going to the Hall of Fame, fellas. I don’€™t really care about wins. I’m going out there to try to help the boys win. I don’t think I’m getting to 300.”

Then there was the strategy of coming out of the gate throwing almost exclusively fastballs. (All but one of his pitches in the first two innings were heaters.): “I threw a bunch of heaters man. I played a bit of country hardball there for the first three innings. After that, I started mixing in some stuff. I made the one mistake and felt pretty good overall.”

Even Lackey’€™s explanation for his lone miscue — a two-run homer to Nelson Cruz — had some spice on it. When asked if his frustration after the blast was due to the pitch or the shallow left field, the pitcher responded, “Multiple things. More than that, probably.” (One guess would be Lackey’€™s frustration with those caught for using performance-enhancing drugs, which Cruz served a 50-game suspension for in ‘€™13.)

But perhaps the most notable reason for Lackey’€™s demeanor was that he just pitched well.

And according to the starter, a big reason for the outing could be attributed to the work of new Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski.

“I always try to work pretty quick, especially when you’re throwing strikes and feeling pretty good about it,” said Lackey, who exited after throwing 90 pitches. “A.J. called a great game. That helps a lot with tempo when you don’€™t really have to think too much about what pitch you want to throw. When he’€™s throwing down the one you’€™re looking for, things kind of roll pretty good.”

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Closing Time: Mike Napoli, David Ortiz make sure Orioles know who they are in Red Sox win at 9:50 pm ET
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Mike Napoli and David Ortiz led the Red Sox' offensive charge Wednesday night. (AP)

Mike Napoli and David Ortiz led the Red Sox‘ offensive charge Wednesday night. (AP)

BALTIMORE — Mike Napoli made a name for himself Wednesday night.

A day after President Barack Obama mispronounced Napoli‘s last name, the Red Sox first baseman gave the world a second chance to familiarize itself with the moniker. Napoli starred in the Sox’ 6-2 win over the Orioles, knocking in four runs via a two-run homer and single that scored a pair.

(For Napoli’s comments on the presidential mispronunciation, click here.)

The Red Sox starting pitcher did his job for a second straight game, this time with John Lackey doing the honors. The righty held the Orioles to just three hits over six innings, throwing 90 pitches. The righty struck out six and walked one.

Here is what went right (and wrong) for the Red Sox in their first win of the season.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

David Ortiz launched a two-run homer in the third inning against Baltimore starter Ubaldo Jimenez, landing on Eutaw Street past the right field fence. The home run marked the first time he has rounded the bases since hitting his only spring training home run on March 10. He has now hit four homers April 2 or earlier in his career.

– Napoli broke a 2-2 tie by launching the Red Sox’ second two-run shot of the day, this one clearing the center field fence with two outs in the fifth inning and Daniel Nava standing on first. The homer came with two strikes, a count on which he hit eight homers in 2013 while carrying just a .622 OPS.

Xander Bogaerts continued his solid start, getting on base three times via a pair of walks and a single. In his first seven at-bats, the rookie had reached five times.

Dustin Pedroia continued to swing a hot bat, carrying over from the final week of spring training. On Wednesday night the second baseman notched four hits, scoring on both Ortiz’s homer and Napoli’s seventh-inning single. Pedroia also made the defensive play of the night, diving for a J.J. Hardy grounder up the middle and springing up in time to throw out the baserunner.

– The Red Sox once again didn’t let the Orioles starter get past six innings, this time driving Jimenez from the game after six, after 96 pitches. Monday, Baltimore starter Chris Tillman lasted just five innings.

– The Red Sox relievers — Edward Mujica, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara — all did their part, combining for three shutout innings following Lackey. Uehara — who allowed two baserunners (error, infield single) — picked up his first save.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Nelson Cruz did some damage for a second straight game, this time hitting his home run the opposite way, over the right field fence, to tie the game at 2 after four innings. Cruz was the difference-maker in Monday’s season opener, breaking a 1-1 tie with a seventh inning solo blast off Jon Lester.

– After a standout performance in the opener, Grady Sizemore came back down to earth a bit. The center fielder went 0-for-4, stranding a pair. Also going hitless for the Red Sox were Will Middlebrooks and Jonny Gomes.

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