Red Sox

McAdam: Numbers don't lie, Lackey's been brutal

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McAdam: Numbers don't lie, Lackey's been brutal

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Can we stop now? Please?

Can we stop with all the talk that John Lackey, in spite of his bloated ERA, is, you know, really pitching better than the numbers suggest because of all those wins? Can we stop suggesting that Lackey isn't really all that bad, and that the second half of the season has seen Lackey pitch much better?

Because it's not true. Any of it.

Take Friday night as an example. The Red Sox had lost three of four in Toronto, seven of 10 overall and came into Tropicana Field needing to throw Tampa Bay off their scent.

The Rays trailed the Red Sox by six games in the loss column before the game. A loss would have dropped them back another game, stripped them of any momentum and essentially forced them to win the final two games of the series to pick up any ground in the standings.

The previous two nights, Red Sox starters (Tim Wakefield and Andrew Miller) failed to get past the fifth inning. The bullpen was used up, and with both Josh Beckett and Erik Bedard being skipped this series due to injury, the Sox needed someone to eat up innings and keep them in the game.

And come to think of it, isn't that the mantra of the (dwindling) number of Lackey backers? That Lackey's numbers may not be inspiring, but he competes and, most nights, gives his team a chance?

Instead, Lackey gave up three runs in the second, two more in the third and didn't come out for the fourth inning. Trailing 5-0 after three, the Sox instead turned to Scott Atchison, hoping he could do what Lackey couldn't.

(Officially, the Red Sox suggested that Lackey left the game with a contusion of the calf, suffered when John Jaso lined a comebacker off his leg in the bottom of the third. But that seems like windrow dressing. With 69 pitches thrown to get nine outs, Lackey was on his way to a quick shower, comebacker or no comebacker).

Friday's start marked the ninth time in 25 starts this season that Lackey has given up five or more runs in an outing. Or, more than once every three tries.

Even before Fright night's debacle, Lackey ranked 44th in ERA among A.L. starters with at least 140 innings. If you're wondering who was 45th, the answer is: no one.

Among regular starters, Lackey has the worst ERA in the league. And it's not particularly close. With Lackey at 6.11 -- of course, his ERA went to 6.30 after Friday's stinker -- the next closest ERA belonged to Minnesota's Brian Duensing at 5.34.

In other words, Lackey is almost a full run worse than the 43rd best pitcher in the American League.

Just in case you think that ERA isn't a proper barometer, know that Lackey also ranks dead last in OPS allowed (.852); tied for last in fewest number of quality starts (eight); and second-to-last in WHIP (1.57).

The only category in which Lackey is among the league-leaders is run support, where he ranks fourth in the American League.

That would explain his 12 wins, because surely nothing else about his pitching does.

When Lackey had his "run'' in which he went 7-1 over nine starts, his ERA was (italics please) still (end italics) over 4.00 (4.10, to be precise). The only way you 87.5 percent of your decisions while giving up better than four runs per nine innings is to have your teammates score runs by the bucketload in support.

That's what happened to Lackey. Any suggestion that he had executed some sort of turnaround is laughable.

Forget the salary and the attendant expectations. Evaluated on his own outings, Lackey has consistently been the worst starter in the American League this season -- and no amount of re-arranging the numbers can deflect that.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

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NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

CHICAGO - Javier Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and the Chicago Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

Jake Arrieta pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning to held the defending World Series champion Cubs close their deficit to 3-1. Manager Joe Maddon got ejected for the second time in this series in the eighth, and a packed Wrigley Field crowd watched Davis get Cody Bellinger to ground into a game-ending double play.

Maddon was heavily criticized for not using Davis during a 4-1 loss in Game 2. This time, the Cubs closer threw 48 pitches to finish the job.

Willson Contreras also homered for the Cubs. Bellinger and Justin Turner connected for the Dodgers, who had won a team-record six straight playoff games.

Game 5 is Thursday, with Jose Quintana pitching for Chicago against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

Baez hit solo drives in the second and fifth after going hitless in his first 20 playoff at-bats. Contreras added a long homer against Alex Wood.

Davis entered with a 3-1 lead in the eighth. He gave up a leadoff homer to Turner, who went 2 for 2 and drew two walks.

Maddon became incensed that a swinging strike three against Curtis Granderson was ruled a foul after the umpires discussed the play. Maddon got tossed, and Granderson struck out swinging at the next pitch.

And after walking Yasmani Grandal to put runners on first and second, Davis struck out Chase Utley, who is hitless in his last 24 postseason at-bats.

All seven of Chicago's runs in this series have come on homers. And long drives in the second by Contreras and Baez made it 2-0.

Contreras' homer banged off the left-field videoboard and Baez's landed beyond the left-field bleachers on Waveland Avenue.

Bellinger cut it to 2-1 with his drive to right in the third. But Baez got the lead back up to two with a shot to the left-field bleachers in the fifth, the raucous crowd chanting "Javy! Javy!" for the flashy young star who was co-MVP of the NLCS last year.

No Cubs player had hit two in a playoff game since Alex Gonzalez went deep twice in Game 2 of the 2003 NLCS against Miami.

Arrieta exited with runners on first and second in the seventh after walking Chris Taylor on a 3-2 pitch. He tipped his hat as fans gave him a standing ovation, a fitting show of appreciation for a pitcher with an expiring contract.

Arrieta turns 32 in March and figures to land a huge deal in free agency. The trade that brought him from Baltimore helped fuel Chicago's rise, with the right-hander capturing the 2015 NL Cy Young Award and contributing to last year's drought-busting championship run.

Limited by a right hamstring injury in the final month of the season, he threw 111 pitches. Brian Duensing retired Bellinger on a fly to end the seventh.

Turner made it a one-run game with his homer off the left-field videoboard against Davis in the eighth.

A career-high 16-game winner, Wood gave up three runs and four hits in 42/3 innings.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

ALCS: Tanaka, Yankees top Keuchel, Astros 5-0 for 3-2 lead

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ALCS: Tanaka, Yankees top Keuchel, Astros 5-0 for 3-2 lead

NEW YORK - Masahiro Tanaka pitched seven innings of three-hit ball and the New York Yankees finally solved Houston Astros nemesis Dallas Keuchel, beating the ace lefty 5-0 on Wednesday for a 3-2 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Gary Sanchez hit an RBI single off Keuchel and later homered to help the wild-card Yankees win for the third straight day at home and move within one victory of their first trip to the World Series since 2009.

The teams head back to Houston for Game 6 on Friday night, when Justin Verlander and the reeling Astros will try to regain their footing following an off day and force a decisive Game 7. Luis Severino is scheduled to start for New York.

Just days ago, Houston was up two games to none and appeared to be closing in on its second World Series appearance. But the Astros, like defending AL champion Cleveland before them, have been unable to put away these poised Yankees, who improved to 6-0 at home in this postseason in front of their cheering, chanting fans.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE