Every single day you spend on this earth is a gift. But some gifts are simply better than others.
John Lackey will toe the rubber for the first place Red Sox today at 4:05 PM, and things just couldn’t be better.
Kind of crazy, right?
Clay Buchholz, far and away the most talented pitcher on the staff, has pitched 18.2 innings in the past two months. Your Opening Day starter, Jon Lester, has been worse than a league average hurler. Lester’s ERA has ballooned since his hot start to this season and now sits at a bulbous 4.58.
And yet, the Red Sox are 59-39. In first place. Playing north of .600 baseball.
It really is quite remarkable how the team has been able to sustain such a high level of success without Buchholz pitching and with Lester being relatively bad at baseball.
Last night’s starter, Felix Doubront, deserves a great deal of credit (I could write a separate piece on how fun it has been to watch the young lefty right the ship after a dreadful start to the season. Check out his numbers since May 16. Go ahead. I’ll wait). But it is Lackey who has assumed the role of Team Ace. He is the horse. He is the stopper.
Since May 19, Lackey has made 11 starts, roughly a third of a starting pitcher’s season. In those games, Big John Stud compiled a 2.32 ERA while punching out 66 batters in 73.2 innings. During the stretch, Lackey has held opposing hitters to a stingy .219 average.
He passes the eye test too. The burly right hander looks in command on the mound, dotting his fastball and going to his secondary stuff when necessary. Lackey’s delivery is free and easy. To put it simply, he is pitching with a healthy arm that he trusts. An argument can be made that this is the first time Lackey’s pitched pain-free since arriving in Boston in 2010.
When Big John takes the mound today at Fenway against the New York Yankees, he will bring with him a 2.78 ERA, a mark that is good for fourth among American League starting pitchers. He trails only the great Felix Hernandez, the portly Bartolo Colon, and the superb Hiroki Kuroda.
In years past, Sunday night’s C.C. Sabathia, Lester matchup would be tabbed as the best duel of the series. But not this summer. Not this series.
Instead, it is Lackey taking on Kuroda today at a steamy Fenway Park, and it should be a lot of fun.
Update: Lester will not pitch Sunday night. Dempster will go in his place in order to get the lefty a bit more rest.