Detroit — John Lackey has been accustomed to pitching with little run support.
And Tuesday, the Red Sox didn’t deviate from that script.
Mike Napoli’s home run in the seventh inning was the only run Boston scored for Lackey, and the veteran right-hander, with the aid of three relievers, made it stand as the Red Sox stymied the Tigers, 1-0, at Comerica Park to take a 2-1 lead in the American League Championship Series.
Pitching on nine days rest Lackey allowed four hits, two after the first inning, and no walks in 62⁄3 innings. He struck out a playoff career-high eight.
“This is probably the biggest game I’ve pitched since I’ve been here,” he said. “(Justin) Verlander pitched great, too.”
Lackey has plenty of playoff experience. He’s thrown 90 innings during the postseason, including the first five in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series. He allowed four hits and one run and earned the victory as the Angels defeated the Giants, 4-1.
This is Lackey’s fourth season with the Red Sox after a successful career with the Angels.
Lackey’s record (10-13) this season belies his effectiveness. He was arguably Boston’s best starter other than Jon Lester.
“He’s a guy with playoff experience,” Boston manager John Farrell said. “On the biggest stage this game has to offer he’s performed. This is a veteran with postseason success.
“We’re glad that he’s not only come back from Tommy John surgery but pitched well.”
In 29 starts, Lackey had a 3.52 ERA. His 1891⁄3 innings was second to Lester, and Lackey’s 40 walks were by far the fewest of any of Boston’s top four starters. He struck out 161, second to Lester, and had a team-best strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.03).
In an anomaly, the Red Sox did hit for Lester in his other playoff appearance this season. Boston won Game 2 of the American League Division Series against Tampa Bay, 7-4. Lackey was less than stellar as he allowed four runs in 51⁄3 innings but got credit for the win.
Manager Jim Leyland said the Tigers had their chances but couldn’t get that one big hit.
“Lackey changed speeds all day long,” he said. “He was terrific really. It comes down to pitching.”