BOSTON — John Lackey certainly looks and sounds fully recovered from elbow-ligament replacement surgery. It shows both on and off the mound.
Lackey struck out a season-high 12 over seven strong innings and Daniel Nava drove in two runs, leading the Boston Red Sox to a 5-3 victory Wednesday and a sweep of the two-game series against the Colorado Rockies.
“Probably the strongest he’s been all year,” Boston manager John Farrell said. “Outstanding fastball command, good power to it and a lot of strikes.”
The 34-year old right-hander gave up two runs and eight hits without walking a batter. Mixing a fastball and slider most of the time, he threw 73 of 98 pitches for strikes.
Lackey (5-5), who missed all of last season rehabbing from the Tommy John surgery, struck out nine over the first four innings — getting three each in the first, second and fourth — while allowing Wilin Rosario’s first-inning RBI single.
“I’ve been feeling pretty good,” Lackey said, often breaking into smiles and joking, a big change from his demeanor in his early days in Boston. “I still feel like I’m getting stronger. It was a process, a lot of work, I’m still building.”
With the top two starters in the rotation — Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz — both going through tough stretches, Lackey knows he’s been one to pitch in big games.
“Jon will be fine. Clay has done great. I’m not worried about those guys,” he said. “I’ve been the guy that has gone first in playoff games.”
Lester has struggled after a strong start, losing three of his last four decisions. Buchholz is currently on the 15-day disabled with a neck strain.
Lackey had his 14th career double-digit strikeout game, first since Oct. 3, 2010.
“It speaks to where my stuff’s at right now,” he said of the strikeouts.
Shane Victorino had three hits and Dustin Pedroia added two for the Red Sox.
Roy Oswalt (0-2), making his second start since being recalled from Double-A, allowed five runs and nine hits in six innings, striking out five and walking one.
Colorado’s Michael Cuddyer extended his hitting streak to 23 games with two solo homers, matching Dante Bichette’s club-record set in 1995.
“The Red Sox are good at putting the ball in play and creating some things. It was a lot of contact, a lot of action, and I just think they found some holes early,” Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. “I thought Roy settled in and made good use of his fastball as he went along. In the end, battled for us to give us six.”
The Rockies finished a road trip in which they lost seven of nine.
New Boston closer Koji Uehara worked a perfect ninth for his second save.
The Red Sox wasted little time jumping to a 3-1 lead against Oswalt in the first. Jacoby Ellsbury had a leadoff double and scored on Victorino’s single to right. David Ortiz followed with his 499th career double, a drive high off the Green Monster that scored Victorino. Nava then had an RBI single when the ball bounced off the second-base bag and into short left just as shortstop Josh Rutledge was attempting to make a play on it.
Oswalt, 3-2 with a 2.16 ERA Double-A Tulsa, struck out 11 without allowing a walk in his first start against Washington last Thursday.
“I felt like both starts actually were better than what they turned out to be,” he said. “That’s baseball, you know? Maybe the next two starts I get some lucky breaks. It seems like the first two I’ve had a couple of breaks here and there that didn’t really fall my way, but I’m going to keep throwing strikes and make them hit the ball and see what happens.”
Boston increased it to 5-1 in the third on Mike Napoli’s bases-loaded RBI single. He improved to 6 for 9 and four RBIs this season with the bases full. Nava followed with a sacrifice fly before Oswalt got the next two outs to strand runners on second and third.
In the sixth, the Rockies cut it to 5-2 on Cuddyer’s leadoff homer off a billboard above the Monster seats. They had runners on first and third with one out before Lackey struck out Tyler Colvin and got Yorvit Torrealba on a liner to center.
In the eighth, Cuddyer hit a different sign above the left-field seats leading off against Junichi Tazawa.
Colorado had grabbed a 1-0 lead on when Rosario singled after Carlos Gonzalez singled and stole second.
NOTES: Cuddyer had his ninth career multihomer game, first since July 24, 2012, at Arizona. … Buchholz, on the DL since June 9, had to cut short a bullpen session. Farrell said he had an MRI, but didn’t know the results. … Boston entered the day leading the majors with 172 doubles and had three more. … Rockies OF Dexter Fowler was out with a sore right wrist. … The Red Sox activated RHP Clayton Mortensen from the 15-day disabled list after optioning RHP Pedro Beato to Triple-A a night earlier. Mortensen was sidelined since June 11 with a strained right groin. … The teams are scheduled to meet again in Colorado on Sept. 24 and 25 for the Rockies’ final two home games of the season. … The Rockies host the Mets in a makeup of the teams’ April 17 snowed-out game Thursday. New York’s Tyler Chatwood (4-1, 2.22 ERA is slated to face Jeremy Hefner (2-6, 3.89 ERA). … Boston is scheduled to play the first of four against the Blue Jays Thursday. Jon Lester (7-4, 4.57ERA) is expected to face Toronto’s Chien-Ming Wang (1-0, 2.18). … Boston’s Stephen Drew had a triple for the second straight game.