Lackey keeps Cardinals in it vs. Cubs

Veteran efficient late after early tests, helps set up walk-off win

Lackey keeps Cardinals in it vs. Cubs

ST. LOUIS -- John Lackey had thrown 93 pitches in fewer than five innings of work in Friday night's eventual 3-2 win in extra innings. Three straight Cubs had singled against the St. Louis starter, and the last two had done so on full counts with two outs.

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Serving as further agitation, Chicago shortstop Starlin Castro had just been granted time as Lackey began to deliver a 1-1 pitch.

Matheny on Cardinals' walk-off

Lackey overcame the testing circumstances and delivered anyway. In keeping with the mantra of his night, the veteran righty made pitches when it mattered most to escape the trouble in a tie game, making Castro whiff on consecutive 92-mph fastballs, the second of which prompted the 25-year-old right-handed hitter to slam his bat on the turf in frustration.

Lackey did not get a win for allowing just two runs over seven innings, but he kept St. Louis close enough to steal the series opener with some late-game offensive heroics.

"It was a tough one tonight," Lackey said. "They put some good at-bats on me and worked a lot of deep counts. I had to throw a lot of pitches, but for the most part was able to do some good damage control and keep us in it."

The 95 pitches he threw through five innings were more than he's thrown in six of his 15 starts this season, but thanks to a four-pitch sixth inning and a seven-pitch seventh, Lackey made it through seven innings for the ninth time this year.

"I needed a couple of quick ones because they grinded on me at the beginning, had several 3-2 counts and some tough at-bats," Lackey said.

Dexter Fowler doubled to lead off the seventh and scored on a Kris Bryant sacrifice fly to put Chicago ahead, 2-1, and put Lackey in line for the loss until the Cardinals rallied for a run in the eighth and in the tenth to win it.

It was the only extra-base hit the Cubs could muster off Lackey, who left eight baserunners stranded.

"He's a guy that thrives in a game like that," manager Mike Matheny said. "He figures out a way to keep us close."

Case in point, his fifth-inning strikeout of Castro that ended a 23-pitch inning and allowed him to go deep into yet another game.

"I still felt fine," Lackey said. "They've got a good offense and kind of put me in some spots with runners on base. I was able to be probably be at my best when I needed to be."

David Cobb is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.