(BaseballStL) – John Lackey said he felt strong Friday night as he took the mound with first place on the line. Fortunately for the Redbirds that translated into almost eight big innings from the Cardinals’ starter.
Lackey threw 7.2 innings, quite the contrast from the 2.0 he threw in his last start against the Reds back on September 10th. And as the Cardinals watched the scoreboard with Milwaukee traveling to Pittsburgh, manager Mike Matheny needed a good outing from Lackey.
“John was great,” he said, “We were hoping it would look like the John Lackey we’ve seen before. You could tell he felt strong.”
With nine days off, Matheny said he expected Lackey to become the pitcher the organization knew he was when they traded for him.
“It was a fun game,” Lackey added, “It was a nice win for sure. I definitely felt better tonight than in the past couple of weeks. When you don’t have to manufacture effort, it’s easier to locate. I think I was definitely locating better tonight.”
The Cardinals only provided Lackey with offensive support in the first inning with two homers from Randal Grichuk and Matt Holliday. Lackey gave up a run in the second inning, but he did make the home runs stand. He also received a tremendous defensive game, particularly from Jon Jay and Pete Kozma.
Jay robbed Ryan Ludwick of an extra base hit twice, the first one saved at least two runs.
“I’m not a guy who strikes out a ton of guys,” Lackey said, “so I definitely need the guys to play a good defense behind me. His catches were big for me.”
The Pirates did beat the Brewers Friday night as the Bucs remain 2.5 games back. The Brewers loss does pull the Cards closer to clinching a playoff spot. The Cardinals need either two wins or a win and a loss from the Brewers to clinch their fourth straight playoff appearance.