John Lackey hasn’t started a game as important as the one he will face Tuesday in Tampa Bay in, well, two weeks or so.
The Sox hurler faced Houston on April 28, coming off a scary biceps injury that he endured during his first “big test” of 2013 – the season opener in Toronto on April 6. The righty, who has been a main target for Sox fans' disdain since the collapse of 2011, silenced his critics at least for a day against the Astros, tossing six strong innings while allowing just one run on five hits, striking out four. Since then Lackey has started two games (at Texas, vs. Minnesota), losing both. The losses are a tad misleading, however, considering Lackey allowed a combined four runs in a combined 12 innings of work in those games. Both starts could certainly be considered “solid.”
Tuesday against a Tampa Bay team hovering around the .500 mark (19-18 on the season), Lackey is looking to put a stop to Boston’s baseball bleeding. The Red Sox (22-16) have lost eight of their last 10 games and have fallen out of first place in the AL East for the first time this season with the Yankees (23-14) and Orioles (23-15) supplanting them (Boston was 1.5 games back as of yesterday). They have just three wins in the month of May.
Tampa Bay, on the other hand, seems to be turning things around in the calendar’s fifth month, as it is on a five game win streak. James Loney and Evan Longoria have been tremendous at the plate for Tampa in the season’s early going, as Loney takes a .376 batting average and Longoria takes a .333 batting average into Tuesday's game.