Owners of the AL's best record, the Boston Red Sox aren't showing any signs of slowing down.
Leading the majors with 5.13 runs per game, Boston's 2012 last-place finish in the AL East has long since been forgotten. The Red Sox (50-34) became the league's first team to 50 wins Sunday after beating Toronto 5-4 in walkoff fashion.
"I think a lot of people doubted this team," said Victorino, who despite going 0 for 5 is batting .350 with a homer and 10 RBIs in his last nine games. "We've got that target on our back because we're in first place. But you know what? We're up for the challenge.
"With 50 wins, people are going to keep talking about that. It's not enough. We've got to keep going."
The Red Sox are surely feeling good about their chances of doing just that with Lackey (5-5, 2.99 ERA) on the mound. The right-hander has gone 4-1 with a 2.44 ERA over his last eight starts, throwing seven innings in each of his last three.
"I've been feeling pretty good," said Lackey, who missed all of last season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. "I still feel like I'm getting stronger. It was a process, a lot of work, I'm still building."
Lackey was at his best in Wednesday's 5-3 win over Colorado, allowing two runs while striking out a career high-tying 12.
"That's the Lackey of old," Victorino told MLB's official website. "Going out there and doing what he is doing, going deep into the ballgames. His velocity is back, too. I think that's what makes it important."
The former All-Star has been especially good at home, going 3-1 with a 1.36 ERA and 37 strikeouts in five starts spanning 33 innings.
"It speaks to where my stuff's at right now," he said of the strikeouts.
In his only start versus San Diego (40-43), Lackey surrendered five runs, four hits and four walks over 3 1-3 innings in a 5-1 loss June 22, 2011. A repeat performance seems unlikely against a Padres team that's hit .224 and scored 25 runs during a 2-7 slide.
San Diego took Friday's opener 9-2 before dropping three straight at Miami by a 17-3 margin, including Monday's 4-0 defeat.
"It's not the results you want. To come out with a loss is not a good day," said losing pitcher Jason Marquis , whose team was limited to three hits.
The Padres will try to regroup behind rookie Robbie Erlin (1-0, 3.60), who allowed three runs and four hits in 6 1-3 innings Wednesday in a 7-5, 13-inning loss to Philadelphia.
"That's a good, experienced lineup over there. He did a great job," manager Bud Black said. "I'm very proud of Robbie. He pitched with the fastball, both sides of the plate."
The left-hander will need to be careful against Jacoby Ellsbury , who's batting .404 with seven RBIs and nine runs during an 11-game hitting streak. The speedy center fielder has also hit safely in each of his last nine interleague contests, going 19 for 40 (.475) with 10 runs and seven stolen bases.
Padres infielder Pedro Ciriaco , acquired from Boston on June 14 in exchange for future considerations, faces his former club for the first time.
|San Diego Padres|
|June 22, 2013||Clayton Richard||15-Day DL||Left shoulder strain|
|June 17, 2013||Everth Cabrera||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|June 15, 2013||Carlos Quentin||Day-to-Day||Sore left shoulder|
|June 11, 2013||Cameron Maybin||Day-to-Day||Sore knee|
|June 10, 2013||Cameron Maybin||15-Day DL||Strained left knee|
|June 10, 2013||Jedd Gyorko||15-Day DL||Strained right groin|
|Boston Red Sox|
|June 28, 2013||Stephen Drew||Day-to-Day||Left game - right hamstring tightness|
|June 23, 2013||Shane Victorino||Day-to-Day||Left game - back|
|June 23, 2013||Franklin Morales||15-Day DL||Strained left pectoral|
|June 22, 2013||Franklin Morales||Day-to-Day||Back|
|June 15, 2013||David Ross||60-Day DL||Concussion|
|June 11, 2013||Clayton Mortensen||15-Day DL||Right hip impingement|
BOSTON (AP) -- John Lackey had a simple explanation for his recent resurgence.
"I'm healthy," Lackey said after pitching eight strong innings for Boston in a 4-1 win over the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night. "I've been locating the ball pretty good, but it has happened before, you know."
Not this frequently, and not recently.
Lackey (6-5) won his fourth straight decision and has a winning record for the first time since late in 2011. He missed all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery and after an early scare in April appears to be throwing the way he did a few years ago when he was one of the top pitchers in the American League.
Lackey struck out six and scattered six hits while walking just one. The only run he allowed was a solo homer by Jesus Guzman in the seventh.
"He's been a good pitcher for a long time," Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "It's just a matter of being healthy, having a feel, having the velocity back. And that's what he's doing."
Boston fans, who repeatedly booed Lackey as he struggled through injuries two years ago, cheered him as he left the mound after the top of the eighth.
"I'm just having a good time pitching," Lackey said. "I'm not really worried about what slack I need to pick up or any of that. I missed a full season. I'm enjoying feeling good and enjoying competing."
Koji Uehara replaced Lackey in the ninth and struck out two, earning his fifth save for the Red Sox, who improved to 6-1 during a nine-game homestand.
The Padres have lost four straight and six of seven.
San Diego rookie Robbie Erlin (1-1) threw 93 pitches over 3 2-3 innings before getting pulled after Brandon Snyder 's bases-clearing double in the third put Boston up 3-0.
"He had to work for every out he had. It drove his pitch-count up," manager Bud Black said. "The ball off the wall with the bases loaded was the backbreaker. But Robbie competed. For a young pitcher coming in here, he didn't back down, didn't scare off, went at them."
Lackey last had a winning record at 12-11 in late 2011, when he finished the season 12-12 and missed all of last year recovering from surgery. He needed only six pitches to get out of the sixth inning before Guzman spoiled the shutout bid in the seventh with a shot off the top of the Green Monster in left. The umpires held up Guzman at second briefly before conferring and ruling it was a homer without going to video replay. Boston fans booed the call, but replays showed it was correct.
David Ortiz hit his 500th career double in the first and Jose Iglesias added an RBI single in the sixth for Boston.
Erlin was solid through the first three innings, but could not get himself out of trouble in the fourth. Ortiz led off with a single and Mike Napoli followed with a walk. After striking out Jonny Gomes for the first out, Erlin walked Saltalamacchia to load the bases for Snyder.
Snyder forced Erlin to throw nine pitches, fouling off five before hitting a double off the upper right corner of the Green Monster - just a few feet more to the right and it would have been a grand slam. Snyder was thrown out trying to stretch out a triple, which would have left Erlin liable for another possible run.
Erlin was done for the night after Snyder tagged his 93rd pitch. He allowed three runs on five hits and three walks in 3 2-3 innings.
"I felt like I was one pitch away the entire time until that last pitch," said Erlin, who was making his third career start. "I tried to go inside, left it belt-high over the plate, and he hit it off the wall."
Iglesias added an RBI single in the sixth to put Boston up 4-0, then the Padres broke up Lackey's shutout bid on Guzman's homer to left in the seventh.
Boston nearly took the lead in the first when Dustin Pedroia walked and tried to score from first base on Ortiz' double down the right-field line. But Chris Denorfia hit second baseman Logan Forsythe with the relay and Forsythe threw out Pedroia at the plate.
NOTES: The fifth all-time series between the Padres and Red Sox continues Wednesday with RHP Edinson Volquez (6-6) starting for San Diego against Jon Lester (8-4). ... Ortiz became the 58th major leaguer to hit 500 doubles and the fifth active player to do so. ... Snyder was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket the week before and had two RBIs entering the game. ... CF Jacoby Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to 12 games. ... Pedroia has reached base safely in 43 of 45 home games this season. ... San Diego SS Pedro Ciriaco returned to Fenway Park for the first time since being acquired by the Padres on June 14 for cash and got a quiet but warm round of applause in his first at-bat.