Boston Red Sox right-hander John Lackey felt right at home, putting on his boots and a wide-brim cowboy hat after another solid outing.
With the Lone Star State native on the mound and a couple of former Rangers catchers getting run-producing hits, the Red Sox got a series-clinching 5-2 victory at Texas on Sunday. Boston is above .500 for the first time since three games into the season.
After A.J. Pierzynski and Mike Napoli provided a 3-0 lead before his first pitch, Lackey (5-2) struck out nine while allowing two runs over seven innings. The big right-hander threw 75 of 105 pitches for strikes without any walks.
”It’s nice to go out there when you already have a 3-0 lead,” Lackey said. ”It kind of lets you relax a little bit and pound the strike zone.”
A few teammates called out ”country boy” and ”cowboy” as he stood as his locker after the game. He was headed to his home in nearby Fort Worth, and planned to spend time Monday – and off day for the Red Sox – at his ranch.
”He threw the ball great,” Pierzynski said. ”We jumped on them a little bit early and got some runs. That kind of put it in cruise control."
Napoli put the Red Sox ahead to stay with an RBI double, two batters before Pierzynski’s two-run single off Robbie Ross (1-4). Both went to Boston as free agents after being in Texas – Pierzynski was the Rangers’ primary catcher last season, and Napoli was there the previous two years.
Koji Uehara, who also went from Texas to Boston in 2013, worked a perfect ninth for his ninth save in a row.
The Red Sox (19-18) won the last two games in the series after being held to one hit by Yu Darvish on Friday night. They have won six of their last eight games, including their last three series, and have a winning record for the first time since winning two of three in the season-opening series at Baltimore.
”It’s probably as much about the series, not so much the overall record,” manager John Farrell said. ”It’s encouraging to see on day three when you’ve got a chance to either sweep or win that rubber game, we’ve been able to put together a very good effort.”
Shin-Soo Choo homered for the Rangers, who have lost 10 of 14 overall and dropped seven of their last nine home games.
Ross made it through 6 2/3 innings and a career-high 112 pitches, settling down after being down 4-0 after two innings.
”He had a little rough first inning, trying to get the ball where he wanted to. But after that I thought he settled down and pitched well,” manager Ron Washington said. ”I like his recovery.”
Dustin Pedroia’s two-out solo homer in the seventh chased Ross, and was the first Red Sox hit since Jonny Gomes’ one-out single in the third.
Ross faced the minimum 13 batters between that, with only one runner reaching on an error being wiped out on a double play grounder.
It was the second homer for Pedroia, who led off the game with a double before Napoli drove him home.
Lackey made his 20th road start against the Rangers, surpassing Seattle’s Felix Hernandez for the most. Lackey is 14-15 overall with a 5.71 ERA in his career against Texas – those are his most losses and highest ERA against any AL team.
Choo’s fourth homer was an opposite-field shot to left-center in the fourth to make it 4-1. Mitch Moreland had an RBI double in the seventh before Lackey struck out his final two batters with two runners on base.
Notes: Boston is 10-4 against left-handed starters. … This is the earliest Boston and Texas have completed a season series, which the Red Sox won 4-2. The Rangers had won the series each of the previous five seasons. …. Texas is 31-18 vs. Boston since 2009. … Red Sox 3B Will Middlebrooks was scratched with soreness in his right hand after being hit by a pitch Saturday night. The Red Sox said it was a precautionary move and expect him to be available for their next game Tuesday. … Napoli has reached base in 31 consecutive games. … Rangers 3B Adrian Beltre, shifted toward shortstop, made a back-handed scoop catch after running a long way for David Ortiz’s popup near the foul line to end the second.