BOSTON — With Clay Buchholz hurt and Jon Lester struggling, the Red Sox need John Lackey to come through to keep the team out front in the suddenly crowded American League East standings.
And Lackey continues to come through.
The veteran righty, making an impressive comeback from last year’s Tommy John surgery, matched his career high with 12 strikeouts, leading first-place Boston to a 5-3 victory and a sweep of a two-game interleague series with the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday.
Lackey (5-5) allowed two runs on eight hits in his third straight seven-inning/two-run pitching. He lowered his ERA to 2.99 with his fifth straight outing without a loss. He didn’t walk anyone and has issued just three walks in those five starts.
Daniel Nava drove in two runs and Shane Victorino had three hits and scored twice for Boston, which had 30 hits in the two games against the Rockies.
Michael Cuddyer, who extended his hitting streak to a career-high 23 games to tie Colorado hitting coach Dante Bichette’s club record, hit two solo homers for the Rockies, who have lost seven of their past nine games to fall back under .500.
Cuddyer opened the sixth inning with a home run and then led off the eighth with his 13th of the year.
Koji Uehara, the closer with Andrew Bailey struggling, pitched a perfect ninth (Boston’s 14th and 15th strikeouts of the game) for his second save.
Roy Oswalt, who fell to 0-2 in two starts with the Rockies, gave up five runs on nine hits in six innings. He has 16 strikeouts in his two outings.
After the Rockies scored in the first on the first of two Carlos Gonzalez hits, a stolen base and two-out single by Wilin Rosario, the Red Sox scored three times in the bottom of the inning.
Jacoby Ellsbury opened with a double and scored on Victorino’s single. David Ortiz doubled Martinez home, took third on a groundout and scored on Nava’s single.
In the third, Victorino and Dustin Pedroia opened with singles and Ortiz walked. Mike Napoli (7-for-12 with 20 RBIs with the bases loaded this year) singled home one run and Nava brought in the second one with a sacrifice fly.
After Cuddyer’s sixth-inning homer, Lackey got out of a subsequent first-and-third, one-out jam with his 11th strikeout and a lineout to Ellsbury in centerfield.
Notes: Buchholz, who was having a Cy Young-type season (9-0, 1.71 ERA) but hasn’t pitched since June 8, was unable to go deep into a bullpen session Wednesday and was slated for an MRI. He was hoping to make a rehab start either Sunday or Monday. “It’s not anything that I couldn’t go out and pitch with, but it’s sort of the same thing I felt the first time I missed a start,” he said. “I felt fine against the Yankees (June 2) and then it had to be that throw I made in an awkward position (June 8). That’s sort of where I’m at right now.” ... Cuddyer has also reached base in a club single season-record 42 straight games. ... Napoli has 53 RBIs, three fewer than he posted all last season with Texas. ... CF Dexter Fowler was out of the Colorado lineup with a sore wrist. His replacement, Tyler Colvin, struck out four times. ... The Sox activated RHP Clayton Mortensen (groin) from the DL and returned RHP Pedro Beato to Pawtucket and have had 27 transactions since June 8. ... RHP Tyler Chatwood (4-1, 2.22 ERA) starts the Rockies’ makeup home game against the Mets today, while Lester (7-4) faces the Blue Jays in Boston’s opener of a four-game home series tonight. Lester pitched a one-hit shutout against Toronto May 10 at Fenway Park. ... Paralympic gold medalist Victoria Arlen threw out the ceremonial first pitch.