Behind efficient Lackey, winning streak reaches three
Righty fans nine over 6 1/3 scoreless frames as offense notches 12 hits
BOSTON -- It took nearly two months, but the Red Sox can now say they've won three in a row following a 4-0 victory over the Braves on Wednesday that marked the first shutout of the season for manager John Farrell's team.
The modest winning streak has followed a 10-game losing streak, the longest by the club in 20 years.
"I tell you what, no one truly had their head in the sand," said outfielder Jonny Gomes. "No one was really ready to throw in the white towel in the season by any means. Yeah, it was just a rough patch. This team does a pretty good job of turning the page, cleaning the slate once we leave these double doors here. Likewise on a win. What we did tonight doesn't matter tomorrow. Clean slate and get back to work tomorrow."
With the scorching hot Blue Jays winning their ninth in a row, the Red Sox (23-29) remain eight games back in the American League East.
"There's still over 100 games left so it's not insurmountable," said catcher A.J. Pierzynski. "I know I've seen teams fight their way out of this before, but we still believe in this clubhouse and locker room, so that's all you can really do -- go out and play and see what happens."
This win was fueled by John Lackey, the most consistent starting pitcher the Red Sox have had this season.
The righty (6-3, 3.27 ERA) scattered eight hits and struck out nine while walking none over 6 1/3 frames. It was Lackey's eighth quality start, moving him past Jon Lester for the team lead.
"Felt pretty good tonight," said Lackey. "They've got a good lineup, really aggressive team. Just trying to locate pitches and get ahead as best I could."
While Lackey took care of business on the mound, the offense was paced by multihit performances from Xander Bogaerts (3-for-4), Pierzynski (2-for-4), Gomes (2-for-3, two runs) and Jackie Bradley Jr. (2-for-4).
The past two days, Gomes has started against righties, with Farrell putting the same type of faith in the gritty veteran as in last year's postseason run.
"He's one of the players that make others around him better," said Farrell. "The way he talks the game, the confidence with which he speaks -- and he goes out and backs it up with somewhat of the body language and the energy he displays every night. He doesn't take anything for granted. He's had to work for everything he's received throughout his career.
"He's a guy that plays on the edge, and you feel it when he's standing in the batter's box or the way he interacts with everybody in the clubhouse."
In a non-save situation, lefty Craig Breslow closed it out for the Sox.
For the most part, the night belonged to Lackey.
"Lackey was mixing his pitches," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. "He commanded his fastball and threw some of his breaking pitches out of the strike zone and expanded the strike zone a little bit."
At the plate, the timely hits are at last starting to come.
"We're getting some hits with guys in scoring position and we're also pitching a little better," said Pierzynski. "Our starting pitching has been better the last three days. That's the biggest thing. We believe we're a better team than what we've shown, and last three days, we've played a little better. But we've got a long way to go and we've got to continue to play like this, because there's still a lot of ground to make up."
The Red Sox took the lead in the bottom of the second and never looked back. With runners at the corners and nobody out, Daniel Nava hit into a 4-6-3 double play in which a run scored.
Pierzynski lashed a two-out RBI single to center in the third to make it a two-run game.
Lackey, in command all night, kept it there, giving Boston a chance to pad the lead.
Bradley came up with his second important hit in two nights, an RBI double to left in the sixth.
"You know, with young guys, time heals a lot of things," said Gomes. "They can go 4-for-4 and these guys are the next best thing, and the following night, they're 0-for-4 with four K's. It's just time for them to find consistency on the field and at the plate.
"Granted, they are young, but we've put a lot of pressure on them. We're trying to win a World Series again. We're not just trying to run it out there. They're on a roll right now and we've got to continue to put some weight on their shoulders and they've got to carry it as well."
After the Braves struck a pair of one-out singles in the seventh, Farrell came out to get Lackey.
Chris Capuano got the two groundouts he needed to get Lackey out of the jam.
Gomes lined an RBI single to left in the seventh to make it 4-0.
Suddenly, the Red Sox are starting to play like they were hoping to all along.
"There really wasn't too much to be said," said Gomes. "The scoreboard said it all. We pitched and didn't hit, and hit and didn't pitch. There wasn't too much of a science to it. I think these last couple of days, we've figured some things out and the lineup is starting to turn over and the pitching is there and here we are."