Lackey Lacks Control in Rain-Lengthened-then-Shortened Loss

Will Venable connects for a leadoff home run in the first inning of Wednesday's game at Fenway Park. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

The rain bothered San Diego Padre and Boston Red Sox alike Wednesday afternoon in Fenway, but no one was affected more than John Lackey.

Lackey’s lack of control allowed the Padres to score four times in the fourth inning, and the game was called in the middle of the eighth with the Padres up 5-1. It was Boston’s first series loss since getting swept at home by the Chicago White Sox three weeks ago.

Lackey Can’t Find His Grip

After allowing a leadoff home run to right fielder Will Venable (his first of the season), Lackey held the Padres to just a walk and a single through the third inning. His command seemed undisturbed by a rain that shifted constantly from drizzle to downpour and all but emptied Fenway Park.

In the fourth, however, Lackey lost all control. A four-pitch walk, a hit batter and a bunt single by center fielder Cameron Maybin loaded the bases, and one out later Venable drew a walk to make it 2-0 Padres. Lackey next faced shortstop Jason Bartlett, and his 2-2 pitch plunked Bartlett square in the back to force in another run.

Lackey lost his grip again while facing third baseman Chase Healey, with his 1-2 pitch slipping out of his hands, sailing over Jason Varitek’s outstretched glove, and rolling to the backstop for a run-scoring wild pitch. Healey then singled the next pitch to right to make it 5-0 Padres.

Lackey was lifted for Michael Bowden with one out and two men on, and Bowden stranded both base runners. He pitched a scoreless fifth, Matt Albers followed him with two innings of one-hit baseball, and Dan Wheeler pitched a perfect eighth before the game was called.

Lackey finished the game giving up five earned runs on four hits, four walks, four strikeouts, two hit batters and a wild pitch. He picked up his sixth loss, raising his ERA to 7.36.

Shift Shuts Down Ortiz

San Diego’s defensive shift completely contained David Ortiz Wednesday, and in the process seriously limited Boston’s scoring potential. Ortiz came up with one out and the bases loaded, but Padres starter Clayton Richard got him to ground into the shift for the inning-ending double play. Ortiz batted in the third with two men on and two outs, but this time lined out softly into the shift.

After Adrian Gonzalez’s single in the fifth scored Jacoby Ellsbury from second to make it 5-1 Padres with two Red Sox on base, Ortiz again grounded into the shift to kill an opportunity to get back in the game.

The only opportunity Ortiz didn’t kill was in the seventh, when Dustin Pedroia (2-3, BB) and Gonzalez (4-4, RBI) singled off Padres reliever Ernesto Frieri with one out. Ortiz didn’t get the chance to strand those base runners, because Kevin Youkilis (2-4) grounded into an inning-ending double play ahead of him.

Richard didn’t exactly dominate the Red Sox, allowing eight hits and two walks while striking out just two, but he prevented the Red Sox from ever getting the one big hit they needed to get back in the game. He held Bostons Nos. 5-9 hitters to two hits in 14 at-bats, picking up his first win since May 16 and lowering his ERA to 4.21.

Wednesday’s game took two hours and 49 minutes, but it was broken up by two hours and 25 minutes in rain delays. Stoppages longer than 30 minutes before the first inning and midway through the third and the fifth slowed the game’s pace to a crawl, and likely prevented either team from finding any real rhythm at the plate.

It fell to the pitchers to carry their teams, and Richard carried his team just a little higher than Lackey.

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