When a pitcher finishes up a game having given up five runs in five innings, it’s not really credible to say he had a “good day.” It can be even harder to give the guy credit in such a game when he’s coming off of a start that was even worse.
But I’m here to tell you that John Lackey’s game yesterday was not bad. You could even say he, himself, pitched well.
Consider first the five runs he gave up, and how they happened.
In the fifth inning, the first Phillies batter pops a (bad) bunt up into the space behind the pitcher and in front of the second baseman. It was a silly thing that happened, and I’m not especially inclined to hold that against Lackey at all.
The next batter hit an easy groundball to Kris Bryant in what looked to be a double play in the making. Instead, Bryant let the ball go under his glove, and a two-out, nobody on situation turned into serious no out trouble.
Lackey uncorked a couple wild pitches, but in each case, they weren’t *that* wild, and instead were buried breaking pitches where he basically did what he wanted to do, and Rene Rivera couldn’t corral them.
Then, after a lot of high-stress pitches (in which he hasn’t really done anything wrong), Lackey gave up a solid single (on a good pitch down!) and a rocket homer on a bad pitch.
Of course a game can turn on just a mistake or two, but you look at the way that inning played out and … man, how can you really put all (or even most!) of the blame on Lackey?
For his part, Lackey quite rightly told the Tribune after the game: “It could have been a lot different. I was throwing the ball very well.”
From my vantage point, I thought Lackey did throw the ball very well. There was some hard contact, as there always is at this point with Lackey, but the stuff looked really good, and it mostly translated.
In his five innings, Lackey struck out 8(!), while walking just one. He allowed six hits, one of which was a homer, and that isn’t good – no question there. But Lackey’s stuff was great: he netted 12 swinging strikes on just 80 pitches. That 15.0% swinging strike rate is absolutely fantastic.
Most days when you command the ball as well as he did, you wind up going six+ innings and allowing much fewer than five runs (four earned). But things didn’t play out that way yesterday.
I think we’ve been quick to jump on Lackey this season when he’s made mistakes (especially juicy mistakes up in the zone), so it’s only fair to point out after yesterday’s game: he pitched well. The results of that game don’t rest on his shoulders.