After making a name for himself with the Los Angeles Angels, John Lackey failed to meet expectations in his first few seasons with the Boston Red Sox.
He's continuing to make up for lost time.
Lackey aims for a fourth consecutive victory as the visiting Red Sox conclude a three-game set Sunday night against Los Angeles, which tries to build on a thrilling win.
Lackey (6-5, 2.81 ERA) failed to approach the All-Star form and big-game reputation he earned with the Angels in his first two years with Boston, going 26-23 with a 5.26 ERA in 2010 and '11. He missed all of 2012 while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The right-hander, however, leads the Red Sox rotation with a 4.39 strikeout-to-walk ratio and owns a career-low ERA.
"I'm healthy," he said of his resurgence. "I've been locating the ball pretty good, but it has happened before, you know. I'm just having a good time pitching. I'm not really worried about what slack I need to pick up or any of that. I missed a full season. I'm enjoying feeling good and enjoying competing."
Lackey allowed one run in a season-high eight innings of a 4-1 win over San Diego on Tuesday. He's 3-0 with a 2.17 ERA over his last four starts.
"That's as good as I've seen John throw in a number of years," Padres manager Bud Black told MLB's official website. "The velocity was really up the first 50 or 60 pitches. He had a good breaking ball in the last few innings. His arm looked good."
Lackey compiled a 2.45 ERA in winning his first four starts against his former team, then yielded eight runs in four-plus innings of an 11-0 loss May 5, 2011, in his most recent start against them. He has had trouble with Josh Hamilton, who is 12 for 27 (.444) with four homers in their matchups.
Hamilton came through with a two-run walkoff homer in the 11th inning of Saturday's 9-7 win, the Angels' ninth in 11 games. Hamilton is batting .375 with two homers, nine RBIs and 10 runs during an 11-game hitting streak.
"I was trying to do a little too much at the plate earlier in the game, and then I understood that I should just be relaxing up there like I've been doing the last couple of weeks," said Hamilton, who finished the night 2 for 6 with three RBIs. "I'm just taking it one at-bat at a time and understanding that if you don't succeed on one, you get to do it three or four more times in the game."
Hamilton got the chance to win it because Los Angeles rallied with four runs in the ninth.
The Red Sox, who had won five straight and nine of 10, will try to bounce back against Jered Weaver (2-4, 3.79). The right-hander beat St. Louis 5-1 on Tuesday to snap a five-start winless stretch, allowing one run in seven innings while throwing a season-high 105 pitches.
"I think the ball's coming out a lot better than it had been, and that's just a sign of the arm strength coming back," said Weaver, who missed more than seven weeks with a broken left elbow earlier this year. "I feel strong again, and hopefully I can maintain this through the rest of the season."
Weaver has gone 1-3 with a 4.78 ERA in his last five starts versus Boston. David Ortiz is 11 for 34 with three homers against Weaver, including playoffs, while Dustin Pedroia is 5 for 31.
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