By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The long ball has become a oncern for veteran Cubs right-hander John Lackey, who in his team’s 6-5 loss to the Marlins on Wednesday evening surrendered a pair of solo homers at Wrigley Field.
In 12 starts, Lackey has now allowed 16 homers, the second-most in the National League.
It was the fourth inning that did Lackeyi n Wednesday, as the Marlins scored three times. Lackey threw his entire arsenal of pitches, with his fastball, changeup, curvball and slider all getting flattened in consecutive at-bats. That inning included a solo homer from J.T. Realmuto, and Marcell Ozuna followed in the fifth inning with a solo shot as well.
Lackey did gut out six innings, allowing five runs, all earned, on seven hits while walking none and striking out six. That wasn’t good enough for his liking or the Cubs’, and it continued his recent struggles. Lackey has now allowed five earned runs in three of his past four starts.
Lackey was more bothered by the three-run fourth inning as a whole than the two solo homers.
“That hit by the shortstop (JT Riddle) where I gave up a double with the pitcher coming up,” Lackey pointed out as his undoing. “I wasn’t really trying to throw a strike there. I just wanted to throw a chase slider in. I hung that pitch a little bit. He got a hit, scored a couple runs. That to me was the difference in the game right there.”
Lackey gave up 23 homers in 29 starts in 2016. On average, he’s given up about 20 per season in his 15-year career.
Lackey is now 4-6 with a 5.12 ERA and 1.36 WHIP this season.
“John is not afraid to challenge hitters,” manager Joe Maddon said.
“Sometimes it works for him. Sometimes it works against him. Realmuto got him on a changeup, and Ozuna got a fastball up in the zone. John knows what he is doing out there. He has come off of some really good games lately. The pitch that really hurt him was the one to (Tyler) Moore. That is the real big moment in the game.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.