Lackey steps up to right Sox ship

John Lackey beat the Yanks, so the Sox are still the only team without a four-game losing streak. Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports

BOSTON -- On the verge of their first four-game losing streak this season, the Red Sox turned to starting pitcher John Lackey on Saturday afternoon to bury any thoughts that the American League’s best team was beginning to struggle during the dog days of August.

And bury those thoughts is exactly what Lackey did.

Lackey produced a season-high 15 ground ball outs against the New York Yankees Saturday on the way to his eighth win of the season. The right-hander went 6⅔ innings, allowing only one run to snap a personal four-game losing streak.

“It’s nice, for sure,” Lackey said. “We needed a win today, especially as a team more than anything. That was nice to get it.”

Lackey made his mark in the game early, getting both Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki to ground out to him before a Robinson Cano grounder to second baseman Dustin Pedroia ended a clean first inning. In all, the Yankees' top three hitters went 0-for-9 against Lackey, all nine outs coming via the ground ball.

“Too good of hitters to go one way about it,” Lackey said. “You’ve got to make a lot of good pitches; you’ve got to bury it up. Guys behind [in the field] played really good, made some nice plays for me.”

It wasn’t just the guys behind him that made good plays. Lackey himself recorded five assists on the day, the most by a Red Sox pitcher since Steve Avery recorded six in one start in 1998. Much like fellow starter and 2012 AL Gold Glove winner Jake Peavy, Lackey took pride in his strong defensive role.

“They’re important outs, especially early on," Lackey said. "It was a 0-0 ballgame for three or four innings there, so any sort of mistake can kind of put you in a tight spot.”

In both the second and fifth inning, Lackey found himself in a tight spot after putting the first two batters on base. However, a double-play popup to shortstop Stephen Drew in the second and three straight ground balls in the fifth led to only one run on the day for the Yankees, who had averaged almost 10 runs a game in their previous four contests.

“He set the tone for us, particularly in the fifth inning after we scored the three runs,” manager John Farrell said. “He’s in a second-and-third situation with no outs and really minimized the damage. I think, to best and briefly describe it, he set the tone for us from the mound today, which we needed.”

Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia felt the same.

“That’s just Lackey and his competitiveness, going out there and never giving in. As far as I’m concerned, he won us that game. A lot of big innings that could have gone the other way, but he made some big pitches, kept them off the board and gave our offense a chance to score.”