John Lackey seems to have put 2012 Tommy John surgery well behind him.
The Boston hurler aims for a third straight victory on Wednesday night when the Red Sox' home-and-home series with the Philadelphia Phillies relocates to Citizens Bank Park for two games.
Lackey struggled to a 12-12 record and career-high 6.41 earned run average over 28 starts in 2011 and then did not pitch at all in the majors a season ago after undergoing surgery that offseason. He made his return to the mound on April 6, but was then shut down for 17 games due to a biceps injury.
Since returning in late April, the veteran has put together a solid season and has only allowed two unearned runs over his last two outings. One of those came in Friday's victory over Cleveland as he scattered two hits and three walks over seven innings while striking out eight. The win pushed Lackey to 3-4 through his seven starts this season with a stellar 2.72 ERA
"John had some good intensity tonight throughout," said manager John Farrell. "He's not thinking about anything that's taken place in the past, either performance-wise or injury-wise, and he's going out and competing at a high level right now."
The 34-year-old righty has a solid 2-2 mark and 3.12 ERA in four previous starts against the Phillies.
Kyle Kendrick will try to shake off consecutive loses when he toes the rubber for Philadelphia.
Kendrick won three straight decisions before his current slide and matched a season high by giving up five runs over five innings of a loss to Washington on Friday. The right-hander yielded eight hits and four walks, falling to 4-3 in 10 starts this year with a 3.29 ERA.
"He was having problems throughout the night. He had a big pitch count in the first two innings. He was having trouble," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
The 28-year-old Kendrick will try to solve a Red Sox club that he is 0-3 against in four lifetime meetings (2 starts) with a 10.80 ERA. Over that time, Kendrick has allowed 14 runs, 20 hits and six walks in 11 2/3 frames.
The Phillies and Red Sox split their two-game set at Fenway Park to begin the week, with Philadelphia and closer Jonathan Papelbon notching a 3-1 victory on Tuesday.
Papelbon, who helped guide the Red Sox to a World Series victory in 2007, shut the door with a perfect ninth inning to record his 10th save of the season in what was his first appearance at Fenway Park since joining the Phillies as a free agent in 2012.
"I would say it was more fun than strange," Papelbon said of playing against his former club. "For me, those guys are some of my best friends in the world, but at the same time it was fun."
Papelbon finished off a gem by Cliff Lee, who allowed just one run over his eight-inning outing. He struck out eight without issuing a walk and was lifted from the game despite having thrown just 95 pitches.
Michael Young and Dominic Brown, the reigning NL Player of the Week, hit solo homers for the Phillies, who had lost three of their past four and pulled back within two games of .500 at 25-27.
Dustin Pedroia's first-inning RBI single was all the offense for the Red Sox, who had a four-game winning streak snapped.
Ryan Dempster pitched well in defeat, yielding six hits and two runs with three walks and four strikeouts over seven innings.
"I threw the ball a little bit better tonight, but just got outpitched by the other guy," Dempster admitted. "Cliff Lee is tough."
The Red Sox lost for only the second time in their last nine at home versus the Phillies.
Boston, though, did win two of three in Philadelphia a season ago and is 14-7 all-time at Citizens Bank Park.