Lackey rebounds with 8 strong innings

Veteran right-hander allows three hits, fans two in Cubs' loss to Braves

Lackey rebounds with 8 strong innings

CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon saw John Lackey having a discussion with Braves catcher Tyler Flowers in the bottom of the fifth inning of Sunday's 4-3, 10-inning loss and didn't feel the need to intervene. Maddon knows Lackey can handle things himself.

The conversation was about the Braves' fifth inning and Kelly Johnson's at-bat. Lackey had not given up a hit over four innings, and Johnson, who led off the fifth, tried to bunt. The ball went foul. The next pitch from Lackey was a little high and sailed to the backstop. Johnson then lined the next pitch to left for a double and the first hit off the Cubs' right-hander.

The Braves apparently weren't too thrilled about that high pitch.

"We had a little discussion," Lackey said of his chat with Flowers before the pitcher's at-bat in the fifth. "It's still baseball. I'm not a pitching machine. If you want me to throw it over the plate for you, we can go somewhere else. This is the big leagues."

Home-plate umpire Jim Reynolds was right there and listened to Lackey and Flowers. Maddon watched from the dugout.

"There was conversation," Maddon said. "I thought Johnny can handle himself. I noticed he was talking to Flowers and Flowers was talking back, and Jimmy was standing there listening, so I thought there was no reason to interrupt."

Lackey threw a season-high eight innings, allowing three runs and striking out two in the loss.

"I felt great," Lackey said. "I threw the ball pretty well and was locating pretty much everything."

In his previous outing against the Reds, Lackey had given up six runs over 5 2/3 innings, and he wasn't pleased with his approach when he had two strikes against the batter. Sunday's game was different.

"With a young team like this that likes to swing a lot, you don't plan on getting to two strikes very often," Lackey said. "You know they're going to swing early in the count. It wasn't a huge part of the game today. It was more trying to locate early in the count and try to get some quick ones."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. 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.