After a ten-strikeout performance against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday in the series finale at Busch Stadium, veteran right-hander John Lackey won’t have trouble finding fans – especially as the Redbirds finished an 11-game homestand with a 9-2 mark.
The former 19-game winner allowed just a pair of hits in his first six innings of work against the young Cubs’ offense, but back-to-back base knocks in the seventh ended Lackey’s bid for a shutout in the finale. He would go on to allow just one run in 7 2/3 innings of work as the Cardinals made it three-of-four against their division rivals.
To many, Thursday’s start is a positive, sure – but hardly anything eye-catching. I say otherwise.
With ace Adam Wainwright done for the year with his Achilles injury and a plethora of youth surrounding him in the rotation in the form of Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, Tyler Lyons and Carlos Martinez, Lackey has the opportunity to lead a young staff in a very competitive division.
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At age 36, Lackey is by-far the eldest member of Mike Matheny‘s pitching staff – who also brings valuable postseason to the mix. He’s made 18 starts and three relief appearances in the postseason, pitching to a 3.08 ERA en route to his pair of World Series rings.
Everyone kind of shrugs off Lackey because it’s been so long since he was considered a front-line starting pitcher in the big leagues, but he’s won at least 10 games in every season dating back to his rookie campaign back in 2002. One of those came back in 2007 when he earned the only All-Star selection of his career in an outstanding season with the Angels.
That year, the right-hander went 19-9 with a 3.01 earned run average in 33 starts spanning 224 innings of work. His performance was good enough to earn him a third-place finish in the American League Cy Young voting and even a 17th-place finish in the league’s MVP balloting, as well.
It’s these types of experiences that Lackey already has that make him so valuable to a young team like this year’s Cardinals club. It’s gotten proven face-of-the-franchise leadership in guys like Waino and Yadier Molina, but too often, it’s the quiet, soft-spoken guys who can really help set the tone in a clubhouse.
With St. Louis already boasting the league’s best record as we head into the second week of May, don’t look past John Lackey, who has shown year-in and year-out just what he’s capable of doing – both in the American and National Leagues.