Slow starts are the norm for Red Sox rotation members. Every year, it seems like Beckett and Lester give reason to question them, and then turn it around. Usually, there's a landmark game for this sort of thing. One game where things started to click -- no runs, big strikeouts, all the problems that had been plaguing the pitcher in question disappearing for a night, and then not coming back.
For instance, let's look at Jon Lester.
In 2008 it was his no-hitter against the Kansas City Royals. Before the no-no, Lester threw 57 innings to the tune of a 3.95 ERA, with only a 33:29 strike-to-walk ratio. Afterwards? 112 innings, 3.12 ERA, 110:35 K:BB. Quite the difference. In 2009 it was his complete-game effort against Texas (nearly a no-no in its own right). Before, 65.1 innings with an ERA well over five. Afterwards? 129 innings at 2.44! Even this year he had four bad games (yes, even the five innings scoreless -- four walks and three strikeouts do not usually lead to good things) before his April 28 start against Toronto. Over 100 innings of an ERA approaching two even since then. Not half bad.
So now I come to John Lackey. It's a little late in the season for a breakout performance, but man, couldn't we all use a reason to feel good -- or at least better about that signing?
Last night, John Lackey shut down the Seattle Mariners for eight innings, flirting with a no-hitter before leaving after eight innings, allowing only three base-runners (error aside) and one unearned run. He pounded the strike zone, hit corners, and his curveball -- which has been missing almost all year--was one of his most effective pitches. This is the Lackey we were looking for: fastballs for strikes, curveballs surprising hitters by dropping in at the last second.
Sure, the Mariners are a bad offensive team, but so were the Royals. Even Texas wasn't particularly impressive in 2009. It remains to be seen what Lackey will do with the rest of his season, but if we see a new, improved Lackey in August, we'll know where it all started.
Now for Beckett to do the same.