After 11 years, Lackey pitches second Series clincher
Boston Red Sox starting pitcher John Lackey reacts after getting St. Louis Cardinals' Jon Jay to strike out and end the top of the second inning of Game 6 of baseball's World Series Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, in Boston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Carlton Fisk wears a beard as he throws out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 6 of baseball's World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, in Boston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
BOSTON – John Farrell walked out to the mound, with two on and two out in the seventh inning of a five-run game. The Red Sox manager does not make that trip except to pull his pitcher.
But before he reached the mound, John Lackey was making his case, and quite forcefully: “John, this is my guy.”
Farrell went back to the dugout without his pitcher. After a wild pitch and much talk about Grady Little, who notoriously and disastrously left Pedro Martinez in too long in the 2003 AL Championship Series against the New York Yankees, Lackey walked Matt Holliday to load the bases.
Junichi Tazawa finished the inning, and Lackey’s win was secure.
“I wanted to stay in there. I wanted to get that last out in the inning,” Lackey said. “But the bullpen guys shut it down. It was a great team win for a great team.”
Lackey allowed one run in 6 2∕3 innings to help the Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-1, in Game 6 of the World Series last night and clinch their third championship in 10 years. Lackey, who also won Game 7 of the 2002 for the Anaheim Angels, is the 11th pitcher in baseball history to win two World Series clinchers, and the third to do it with two different teams. According to STATS, Lackey joins Jimmy Key (with Toronto in 1992 and the Yankees in ’96) and Catfish Hunter (with Oakland in ’72 and the Yankees in ’78).
For the oft-criticized member of the fried chicken and beer-brigade involved in the team’s September 2011 collapse, it was a bit of redemption. Lackey missed all of last season with Tommy John surgery, but he was 10-13 with a 3.52 ERA while receiving bad run support this year.
He was the losing pitcher in Game 2, allowing three earned runs in 6 1∕3 innings, then he came out of the bullpen in Game 4 and pitched a perfect inning as Boston tied the series at two games apiece. Last night, he allowed one run on nine hits and a walk, striking out five.
Lackey had a rough relief outing for the Angels in the 2002 Series before giving up three and then one run in a pair of starts. He allowed four hits and struck out four in the clincher against Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants.
“That was a long time ago, man,” Lackey said this week. “I think most of those guys in that game aren’t even playing anymore.”
A rookie then, Lackey is now a veteran of a dozen seasons with two World Series rings. Back then, he said, he was just trying to get the game to the bullpen in good shape.
“My job was just basically not to screw it up,” he said.
‘If it stays fair’
Carlton Fisk has been waiting almost 40 years for his chance.
The Hall of Fame catcher, who famously waved his fly ball fair for the winning home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, threw out a ceremonial first pitch before this year’s sixth game.
“They’ve lost two and this is the sixth game, so they can win tonight,” Fisk told reporters before donning a fake beard to make his first pitch. “That would be great.”
The 62-year-old Fisk batted .269 with 376 regular-season homers in a 22-year career with the Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox, retiring as the all-time leader among catchers for home runs and games played. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000.
Fisk said yesterday that he was also scheduled to throw out a ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park in the 2004 World Series. The Red Sox were saving him for Game 6 that year, but they swept the St. Louis Cardinals in four games to end their 86-year championship drought.
Three years later, Boston was back in the series and Fisk was again slated to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 6. Again the Red Sox ended it in four games, and again they clinched it on the road.
“I got left out of the last two, also,” Fisk said before Game 6 last night, when the Red Sox returned to Fenway after taking a 3-2 lead in the series by winning two of three in St. Louis. “Now I’m saying, okay, ‘Why don’t you lose a couple of games?’ And that’s not a real good thing wishing that would happen.”
The Cardinals spent most of their travel day not traveling at all.
The team’s plane sat on the tarmac at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport for about seven hours on Tuesday and didn’t arrive in Boston until about 11 p.m. Manager Mike Matheny said there was no complaining from his players.
“I can’t tell you how impressed I was with how everybody handled it,” Matheny said before the sixth game. “We travel a lot, so you kind of anticipate that everything is going to go smooth and it has all season. And you get to this time of year, and things kind of went in a different direction.”
Matheny said players mostly hung out with their families on the plane and joked around with each other.
“Guys were making the best of a situation they knew we didn’t have any control over,” he said. “How that affects us? I don’t think it really does.”
Cardinals pitcher Joe Kelly said that the biggest problem was that when they finally arrived in Boston, they struggled to find a restaurant open for dinner. “Nobody went the room service route because everyone thought every other guy would go the room service route and it would take three hours to get your food,” he said.
Red Sox Manager John Farrell said he wasn’t counting on the Cardinals being worn out by the trip.
“We don’t factor that in,” he said. “We’ve had our own issues mechanically on travel before and it doesn’t take away from your preparation. So nothing takes away from our respect and knowing that we’re going up against a very good team.”
Starting in the bullpen
Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal throw their blazing fastballs out of the St. Louis bullpen.
That doesn’t mean they might not want to start some day.
The Cardinals, who went into Game 6 of the World Series last night trailing the Boston Red Sox, 3-2, have had success using young minor league starters as relievers early in their careers.
Martinez, 22, relieved in 20 of his 21 regular-season games this year. The 23-year-old Rosenthal relieved in all 74 of his games this season. Joe Kelly, 25 who was slated to start Game 7, relieved in 21 of his first 22 appearances this season, then had 14 starts before coming out of the bullpen for his final regular-season outing.
“It normally comes down to a need we have, where we’ve had somebody going down, and see who is the next guy throwing the ball well,” Matheny said before the game. “It’s often times one of the guys in the minor league system. And we give them a shot, and usually try to put them in situations where they can have some success, and, fortunately, we’ve had quite a few that have been able to answer the bell.”
In the long run, “we plan on giving these guys a lot of opportunities,” he said. “Some of them really want to start. They’ve proven that they can start. We’ll spend time this winter evaluating where we are as a club, where we think that they can be individually, and how they can help us.”