BOSTON — John Lackey certainly looks and sounds fully recovered from elbow-ligament replacement surgery. It shows both on and off the mound.
Lackey struck out a season-high 12 over seven strong innings and Daniel Nava drove in two runs, leading the Boston Red Sox to a 5-3 victory yesterday and a sweep of the two-game series against the Colorado Rockies.
“Probably the strongest he’s been all year,” Boston manager John Farrell said. “Outstanding fastball command, good power to it and a lot of strikes.”
The 34-year old right-hander gave up two runs and eight hits without walking a batter. Mixing a fastball and slider most of the time, he threw 73 of 98 pitches for strikes.
Lackey (5-5), who missed all of last season rehabbing from the Tommy John surgery, struck out nine over the first four innings — getting three each in the first, second and fourth — while allowing Wilin Rosario’s first-inning RBI single.
“I’ve been feeling pretty good,” Lackey said, often breaking into smiles and joking, a big change from his demeanor in his early days in Boston. “I still feel like I’m getting stronger. It was a process, a lot of work, I’m still building.”
With the top two starters in the rotation — Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz — both going through tough stretches, Lackey knows he’s been one to pitch in big games.
“Jon will be fine. Clay has done great. I’m not worried about those guys,” he said. “I’ve been the guy that has gone first in playoff games.”
Lester has struggled after a strong start, losing three of his last four decisions. Buchholz is currently on the 15-day disabled with a neck strain.
Lackey had his 14th career double-digit strikeout game, first since Oct. 3, 2010.
“It speaks to where my stuff’s at right now,” he said of the strikeouts.