HOUSTON -- Red Sox starter John Lackey watched the ball bounce softly toward the right-field fence, lowering his head toward the ground in disappointment.
The double by L.J. Hoes to lead off the Houston seventh inning wasn't what he was looking for.
Lackey shouted into his glove as he watched Red Sox manager John Farrell walk toward the mound to remove him from the game he had clawed so boldly to win.
Knowing a victory was no longer in the cards, Lackey angrily slammed a towel into the dugout bench.
The worst team in baseball -- the Houston Astros -- got the better of the Red Sox in a 2-0 victory on Monday night, but that can't be blamed on Lackey.
Lackey latched onto a weakness of the Astros hitters -- they tend to strike out a lot -- and exploited it all night.
The Astros are on pace to challenge the team strikeout record of 1,529 set in 2010 by Arizona. They’re currently on pace for 1,526.
While Lackey is by no means a strikeout pitcher, he kept the Astros guessing. In six innings, Lackey struck out 10, just the second time in nearly three years that he has notched double-digit strikeouts (he had a career-high 12 in June).
But strikeouts aside, Lackey wanted to win.
After two losses and a no-decision, Lackey hasn’t won since July 12.
Lackey watched helplessly as reliever Junichi Tazawa allowed Hoes to score on a squeeze bunt, making it 2-0.
It was a painful end to a painful start for Lackey (7-9).
To end the second inning, Lackey fielded a grounder and appeared to have rolled his left ankle awkwardly. After making the throw to first and getting the out, Lackey hobbled off the field with the help of the training staff.
Making no stops in the dugout, Lackey limped down the stairs into the clubhouse.
Rubby De La Rosa was warming up in the bullpen, but Lackey made a gutsy return in the third, striking out four batters across the next two frames, while allowing three baserunners.
After striking out the first batter of the fifth, Lackey got himself in another tight spot by allowing a single to Hoes and a walk to Villar. Hoes scored on a Robbie Grossman single to break the scoreless tie.
But just as he had done in the third inning, Lackey fought back.
He threw seven of his next eight pitches for strikes to fan the next two hitters and escape the inning with minimal damage.
Lackey threw 113 pitches (73 for strikes), just three shy of his season high, all the while becoming the 19th active major leaguer to pitch 2,000 innings for his career.