John Lackey can’t be Boston’s Game 4 starter

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With the Red Sox trying to put the Rays away in a three-game series beginning Friday, John Lackey has given all three Rays fans reasons to hope: he just left with the Red Sox down 5-0 after three innings.

It’s the first early exit for Lackey during the second half, but it’s the sixth straight outing in which he’s given up at least four runs.  He’s hasn’t allowed fewer than three runs in a start since facing the Mariners on July 22 and he hasn’t done so against a good offense but once all season (against Philadelphia on June 29).

So, while the newspapers have debated whether Lackey or Erik Bedard should start Game 3 of the postseason series for the Red Sox, the real debate is whether Lackey should be on the postseason roster at all.  He might be a better bet in October to go six innings and give up four runs than Tim Wakefield or Andrew Miller, but there really doesn’t seem to be any upside here at all.

With Clay Buchholz making progress and hopeful of returning as a reliever at the end of the month, the Red Sox really need to think about stretching out Alfredo Aceves and setting him up as a postseason fourth starter.  He pitched 3 1/3 innings last time out on Monday, so it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds.  Aceves, who made four starts earlier this season, has a 2.87 ERA in 94 innings on the year.

Of course, the Red Sox also have to be concerned with simply making the postseason.  They’re lead over the Rays will drop to 5 1/2 games if they go on to lose tonight.