Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hochman: Lackey, Lester Put Friendship on Hold

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hochman: Lackey, Lester Put Friendship on Hold

Article excerpt

John Lackey's neck is as red as his hat.

"They're both big rednecks," asserted Cubs catcher David Ross of Lackey and Jon Lester. "I love them both."

The Game 1 starters of the NLDS have some similarities, Lackey suggested Thursday.

So, what are they?

"I don't know," Lackey said, his drawl dripping. "Country stuff, probably."

What, exactly, is an example of country stuff?

"Country music."

I mean, yes. It is, indeed. But what else, John?

"Country music. Hunting. Trucks. You know, stuff like that."

In Boston, Ross was the redneck Red Sox's backstop. Now he's a Cub with Lester. He suggested another J.L. similarity drinkin' beer.

"Oh man," Ross said. "They're good at that."

But the similarity that is most impressive and imperative is they're wired weird. They mess with pressure. They desire the high- wire. Maybe it's this country-fried attitude that makes them this way, but Lackey and Lester, start after start, are October cocky.

"You hear some guys saying it's just another game it's not," Lackey said. "You got to accept that you're going to feel something different. You got to accept that you're going to be a little more amped up. And you got to use it in the right direction, because it can make you a better player."

Lackey is fascinating, for he has the dueling ability to control the game, yet also lose control of his emotions. Sometimes, when you think of Texas fireballers, you think of a guy with a gritty grip, unfazed by a fastball called a ball, since he'll just rear back and throw one even faster. The Nolan Ryans and Kerry Woods, in a way, were almost like cliched cowboys in the movies aloof, unflappable, stuck on stoic. But Lackey will just lose it. He'll scream at an umpire, Lackey's mouth widening the way the strike zone apparently had not. When manager Mike Matheny walks to the mound, one wonders which man will walk back to the dugout.

"There are a number of things that make up an ace and personality is one of them," Ross said.

But it works, all of it, this bastion of passion.

In 21 postseason starts, Lackey has a 3.08 ERA.

"He is just one of those guys who is an extreme competitor, a gamer," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. "When we were looking at (acquiring) him, it reminded us a lot about a Chris Carpenter-type, and guys like that just rise up to occasions. He's had a lot of opportunities to pitch in October, and you think about the acquisition, it makes sense for us, because that's our goal to play in October, and to be able to give him the ball."

So, of course, is fearlessness. We saw it Wednesday, Chicago's Jake Arrieta lighting up fastballs all over before lighting up a cigar in the winning clubhouse. Arrieta has the beautiful, enviable trait of not giving a you know what. Lackey has that, too. He was asked about possibly throwing "too" inside against Chicago hitters, because when these teams play, the baseball can bruise. …

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