Lackluster John Lackey Facing Must-Win Game

Sean KennedyCorrespondent IJuly 17, 2010

BOSTON - JULY 04:  John Lackey #40 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after Ty Wigginton of the Baltimore Orioles makes it safely to first base on July 4, 2010 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

John Lackey has been nothing less than a tremendous disappointment this season. 

After signing for more than $82 million in the offseason, certainly a lot more was expected of him than he has provided.

In 18 starts, Lackey has given the Red Sox 118 innings, which is the good news. 

However, Lackey has a 4.78 ERA and opponents are batting an astounding .298 against him. 

Of equal concern, Lackey has given up far too many walks (46) and hasn't had nearly enough strike outs (68).

Lackey has surrendered 135 hits to along with those 46 walks, resulting in a whopping 181 base runners in his 118 innings. That amounts to a stunning 1.60 WHIP. 

Folks, that ranks 107 out of 109 MLB pitchers—simply abysmal. 

If batters don't reach base, they can't score. But in Lackey's case, they do both far too often.

The fact that Lackey has a 9-5 record is misleading. The Red Sox are 9-9 in the games he has started this season. 

Luckily, he plays for a team that has scored the most runs in baseball. Lackey, in particular, benefits from extraordinary run support each time he pitches. In fact, no other Red Sox pitcher has been so fortunate. 

If Lackey were pitching like the guy the Red Sox thought they were getting, he might be undefeated with all that run support.

However, Lackey is 1-2, with a 5.61 ERA in his last three starts. 

And Lackey's last outing, against the Blue Jays one week ago, was an unmitigated disaster: 4.2 innings, eight hits, seven runs (all earned), six walks, and two strike outs. 

In those 4.2 innings, Lackey threw a highly inefficient 105 pitches—just 58 for strikes.

Lackey was advertised as a big time pitcher who would step up when it was his turn to take the mound. But so far, he looks like a No. 5 starter—not the purported ace we were all expecting.

With losses in seven of their last nine games, including two straight, today's game qualifies as a "must win" for Lackey and the Red Sox. In that sense, it really is time for Lackey to step up.

The Red Sox are 3.5 games out of the Wild Card, it is July 17, and the clock is ticking on their season. By the time all their regulars return, there is a danger that it won't even matter any more.

If there is such a thing as a "must win" game in July, this is it.

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