Eleven years after first World Series triumph, John Lackey in position to make history

October 30, 2013 - 8:11 am

When the Red Sox signed John Lackey after the 2009 season, the team imagined a scenario in which it had a postseason-tested rotation like none other. At the time, with Lackey, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester on their roster -- three different pitchers who had earned the victory in a World Series-clinching contest prior to their 25th birthdays -- the team could claim an unmatched ensemble of pitchers who had contributed to October triumph. It took a long time for either the Sox or Lackey to be in position for such a vision to come to fruition, with the team changing in numerous ways since his signing (including the departure of Beckett). But now, in Lackey's fourth season in Boston, 11 years and two days removed from his winning performance over the Giants in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series, Lackey has an opportunity to once again play a pivotal role in a potential clincher, just as he did in permitting one run in five innings in Game 7 as a 24-year-old. The right-hander will get the ball for Game 6 on Wednesday night, with an opportunity to pitch his team to a title. Lackey, however, is hardly playing highlights of the 2002 World Series on loop. "I was a rookie. We had a pretty veteran team'€¦ Our bullpen was probably our main strength on that team. I was trying to get five or six innings and turn it over to those guys.  My job was just basically not to screw it up," Lackey recounted on Tuesday. "That was a long time ago, man. I don't think that's going to play much into [Game 6]. I think most of those guys in that game aren't even playing anymore." Indeed, of the 28 other players in that Game 7, only one (Francisco Rodriguez) played in the big leagues this year. That, in turn, underscores the rarity of what Lackey is trying to accomplish. Only 10 pitchers have ever claimed wins in two different World Series clinchers. Only six members of that group have been starters for both of those contests. Just one -- Andy Pettitte, who started and was the winning pitcher in World Series clinchers with the Yankees in both 1998 and 2009, has accomplished the feat as many as 11 years apart, the gap that separates Lackey from his first World Series 'W' and his attempt at another tonight. Moreover, if Lackey secures a victory on Wednesday, he would become the first pitcher ever to start and win World Series clinchers for two different teams -- the two prior players (Catfish Hunter, Jimmy Key) who won clinchers for two different franchises earned at least one of their victories in relief. Here's a look at the complete list of pitchers who have earned the victory in multiple World Series-clinching contests: Art Nehf (Giants): 1921 Game 8, 1922 Game 5 Wilcy Moore (Yankees): 1927 Game 4, 1932 Game 4 (relief) Lefty Gomez (Yankees): 1936 Game 6, 1937 Game 5 Vic Raschi (Yankees): 1949 Game 5, 1951 Game 6 Allie Reynolds (Yankees): 1952 Game 7 (relief), 1953 Game 6 (relief) Sandy Koufax (Dodgers): 1963 Game 4, 1965 Game 7 Bob Gibson (Cardinals): 1964 Game 7, 1967 Game 7 Catfish Hunter (Athletics, Yankees): 1972 Game 7 (relief), 1978 Game 6 Jimmy Key (Blue Jays, Yankees): 1992 Game 6 (relief), 1996 Game 6 Andy Pettitte (Yankees): 1998 Game 4, 2009 Game 6 Lackey has a chance to join that very short list, though for now, the idea of contributing to two different champions is hardly on his mind. For today, he's only concerned with the here and now of 2013. "I'm focused on [Game 6, focused on trying to make some pitches, trying to help this team win," said Lackey. "There will be time for [reflection] later on."