Lackey brings quality to 1st Cubs start at home

Lackey brings quality to 1st Cubs start at home

CHICAGO -- John Lackey served up a leadoff double to Billy Hamilton on the first pitch of his first game as a Cub at Wrigley Field. It was about the only mistake he made in Chicago's 9-2 win over Cincinnati.

"John gave up that run early, but we came back with five," Kris Bryant said. "That settles him down and makes it easier for him to go out and pitch."

Which is exactly what Lackey did in his home debut for the Cubs, posting a quality start, striking out seven over 6 2/3 innings. Manager Joe Maddon could tell his right-hander was ready early.

"You look at him on the bench, and I gave him a knuckle thing before the game, and he was totally absorbed in the game before it ever began," Maddon said. "Then you're the shortstop or second baseman walking by and see the starting pitcher looking like that, Let's go. He's got the edge -- it's very contagious. He demands a lot. It's great for us and, of course, for him."

This was only Lackey's third career start at Wrigley Field, and he now has a 1.77 ERA there. He also helped himself by hitting an RBI single in the Cubs' five-run first.

Lackey's RBI single

Lackey didn't mind waiting for his turn.

"You won't hear me complain about hanging around watching guys score runs, I promise you that," Lackey said. "I'll sit there and get a coffee and wait as long as they want to hit."

Maddon felt Lackey made adjustments in game. The ball felt like a "cue ball" because of the cold, Maddon said.

"The ball didn't feel that good tonight, so he made the adjustment in the game, probably backed off velocity a bit," Maddon said.

And once Lackey did that, his fastball command improved, and his off-speed pitches were more effective.

"I made better pitches tonight, did a few things smarter, mixed some things up," Lackey said. "With the lead, it helps. I was able to locate pretty good. Guys made it a lot easier on me, the last two starts. They've swung the bats well. It's been fun to be the pitcher on this side."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.