April 28, 2013

MLB: Lackey solid in return for Sox

BOSTON (AP) -- There was a little tension in Fenway Park when John Lackey's return from the disabled list began with a 27-pitch first inning.

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GOOD OUTING: Boston Red Sox starting pitcher John Lackey, right, is congratulated by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia after the last out in the sixth inning against the Houston Astros on Sunday at Fenway Park in Boston. Lackey earned his first win in the majors since 2011, allowing one run on five hits while striking out four and walking two.

AP photo

Lackey quickly eased the fears -- including some of his own -- and pitched six solid innings for the Boston Red Sox in a 6-1 win over Houston on Sunday and completing a four-game sweep of the Astros.

Lackey (1-1) got his first win since Aug. 23, 2011. He missed all of 2012 after having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, then spent most of the opening month on the disabled list with a strained right biceps.

"It feels good. It's been a long time," said Lackey, who allowed one run and five hits. "It's been a lot of hard work to get back to this point and hopefully we can keep it rolling forward."

Lackey's performance was a welcome sight. His only other start this season ended early with Lackey walking toward the dugout in pain, holding his right arm. The soreness was in his muscle though, above the surgically repaired elbow, and only required a stint on the 15-day DL.

Almost better than getting the win for Lackey was getting through the start without pain.

"The elbow's fine," he said. "I was relieved probably to know I'm going to get my next start, just to come out of it healthy more than anything."

Lackey struck out four and walked two, both coming in the first inning and led to the only run Houston scored. He got in another jam in the sixth when the Astros loaded the bases with one out, but got himself out of it.

The Red Sox (18-7) tied the club record for wins in April and will have a chance to set a new opening-month mark Tuesday at Toronto.

Stephen Drew hit a two-run triple and David Ortiz drove in two runs with two hits, extending his hitting streak to 20 games dating back to last season. Ortiz has 11 RBIs and is batting .516 in eight games since returning to the lineup last weekend.

Bud Norris (3-3) struck out six for Houston and allowed five runs -- three earned.

Two errors by shortstop Marwin Gonzalez led to two unearned runs in the fifth that put Boston up 5-1.

Houston has lost four straight and seven of nine.

"We've been battling and we wanted to put a 'W' up there. But we've got to put it behind us and get ready for the next day and try to end this skid," Norris said. "It's early though. It's a long haul."

Houston left nine runners on base and was 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position on Sunday. The Astros were just 5 for 38 in the series. They had a runner on third with two outs in the ninth, but Daniel Nava ended the game with a diving catch in right field.

Ronny Cedeno drove in Houston's only run with a single in the first after Lackey had walked Jason Castro and Carlos Pena with two outs.

The Astros loaded the bases with one out in the sixth on consecutive singles by Castro, Pena and Cedeno, but Lackey got himself out of the jam by striking out Fernando Martinez and getting Matt Dominguez to ground into a fielder's choice.

"I was hoping he'd get through five, but he battled. He found it and he was able to get through six," first baseman Mike Napoli said. "It's going to mean a lot, especially when he pitches like that. We're going to need him. Hopefully he stays healthy. When he's healthy I've seen him do good things."

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