All I am asking for Monday night in St. Louis is a little Lackey stout. A strong, reliable and quality presence on the mound. I’ll be honest. When I look at the veteran right hander on the mound, I think of a winter stout that is just right in October. The time of year where chill comes into the air and the beer of choice goes from wheat lagers to dark heavy stouts. John Lackey was made for big time starts like the one at Busch Stadium tomorrow night.
Do yourself a favor and forget his 4.30 ERA and 1.39 WHIP(walks/hits average per inning) that he compiled in the last two months with the Cardinals. Just remember what he did last October. In 5 starts with the Red Sox, Lackey compiled a 3-1 record in 26 innings, with a 2.77 ERA and 25 strikeouts. In the previous two postseasons, going back to 2008 and 2009, Lackey has compiled ERA’s of 2.63 and 2.29. The man is an innings chomping big game pitching machine who clicks into a higher gear when the postseason waters approach.
Game 2 broke some hearts in St.Louis. Lance Lynn pitched good enough to win, Matt Carpenter hit a game tying home run but Pat Neshek missed location and gave up a bomb to Matt Kemp. The rest of the offense couldn’t find a rhythm after tagging the Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw for eight runs the previous night. In classic 2014 Cardinal fashion, the offense ignited for one game and lost power during the next. What happens in Game 3? The bats will be facing recovering starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, a lefthander who is decent when healthy but no one knows what to expect Monday. Ryu last pitched on September 12th against San Francisco, where he only lasted an inning and gave up 4 earned runs on 5 hits. The last time he pitched 6 innings came against Arizona on September 6th. It’s been a while since Ryu has been in a game that matters and Game 3 is as huge as it gets in a swing game. If he is not right, the Cards will have to attack early and often. If Ryu gets settled, bad things could develop. The defense behind Ryu provided a .300 average on balls put in play and Ryu throws 65 percent of his pitches for strikes. He doesn’t do anything remarkable but he can be reliable.
John Lackey simply has to be better. Lackey pitched well in 60 percent of his starts for the Cards. When he is hittable, teams know it early and attack. Lackey is predominantly a strike throwing machine but when he catches too much of the plate, opponents attack and do it early. If he can settle in, Lackey can be effective. You will know early on if he has the stuff or not. Lackey can work around without his best stuff but against a great hitting team like the Dodgers who don’t miss many mistakes, the task will be tough. Then again, in October, no opponent scares the Cards. Lackey didn’t scare when the Cards came calling in 2013. He made three appearances, pitched 14 innings, and allowed 4 earned runs. It may not be smart to stand on last year’s results but I always think of the most recent playoff action as a good way to predict a start. His great 2013 postseason also came after a season where he only went 10-13. October brings out a different side of Lackey. A more fierce pitcher with a higher amount of emotion and intensity. Lackey doesn’t have to be blazing in Game 3. He just has to be effective and strong. Like a stout.
It’s not easy to love Lackey. He doesn’t charm the media like Adam Wainwright but he doesn’t produce a cold streak like Lance Lynn. Lackey is just a straight up professional who seems like the mound is the best place to make a statement. There’s nothing fancy about the way he pitches. He slings a fastball up there 64 percent of time and mixes in a slider and curveball. Here it is, gents. Hit it, miss it or pop it into the sky.
Many people are still bitter about Joe Kelly leaving in the John Lackey trade. The veteran can silence that crowd with a great start tomorrow. Prove to Cardinal Nation what you were really brought here for. Forget the past and just pitch.
Game 3 doesn’t exactly hinge on Lackey’s efforts but he will play a role in the path the game takes. I wish I could tell you which Lackey will show up. Then again, it’s the playoffs. You never know.
Thanks and goodnight.