It wasn’t supposed to be easy. After allowing the Boston Red Sox to come back in grand fashion in Game Two of the ALCS, the Detroit Tigers turned to one of the best pitchers in baseball, Justin Verlander. The Red Sox countered with John Lackey.
Despite a great deal of postseason success in his career, there was great skepticism that Lackey would be able to go toe-to-toe with Verlander. Not only had Lackey struggled on the road all season, Verlander was on a memorable pace, not having relinquished a run in 27 straight innings going into the game.
Staring the odds down and holding the Tigers scoreless in Game 3, everyone was reminded as to why the Red Sox signed Lackey to a hefty five year, $82.5 million contract — Lackey was a big-game pitcher.
The idea of signing Lackey as a postseason pitcher was fresh in the minds of the Red Sox dating back to 2009. He had just come off a seven-plus inning shutout of the Red Sox in the ’09 ALDS, one of the reasons why the right-hander was offered a contract that very offseason.
Through three years, the opportunity was never there for Lackey to pitch in the postseason. A career 3.12 ERA pitcher in the playoffs, Lackey was finally given the chance to shine under the greatest pressure. In two additional playoff starts this postseason, Lackey has now lowered his ERA to 3.10 over 16 career postseason appearances.
While Lackey has yet to fully redeem himself for three previous disastrous years in a Red Sox uniform, Tuesday night’s gem has gone along way in salvaging his time here in Boston. Coming off an impressive 2013 regular season campaign, Lackey has continued to roll through the fall.
Despite his great season, the Red Sox are only hoping to see Lackey two more times. If they do, there will be much to celebrate here in Boston.