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Lackey's Hand Beats an Ace

Angels defeat Brown for the second time in a week as L.A. wastes its one good scoring opportunity. Eckstein gets the key hit in 3-0 victory.

June 28, 2003|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

Angel right-hander John Lackey was up there with the American League leaders in several categories Friday, but not the ones he or his employers envisioned: fourth in home runs given up (16), fifth in earned runs given up (59), eighth in hits given up (112).

A season worthy of a World Series Game 7 winner, this was not, but Lackey offered a glimpse Friday night of the kind of pitcher the Angels expect this 24-year-old to be, shutting out the Dodgers on five hits over 7 1/3 innings to lead the Angels to a 3-0 interleague victory before a sellout crowd of 43,700 in Edison Field.

David Eckstein snapped a scoreless tie with a well-placed RBI triple in the seventh inning, and Jeff DaVanon, batting in Eckstein's old leadoff spot, followed with his third hit, an RBI single, as the Angels beat Dodger ace Kevin Brown for the second time in six days.

Lackey, who gave up four runs in the first inning of a 4-2 loss to the Dodgers last Saturday, was hardly overpowering, striking out three and walking one intentionally. But he pitched his way out of a runner-on-third, no-out jam in the seventh and has thrown 10 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings over his last two starts to improve to 5-7.

Setup man Brendan Donnelly replaced Lackey with two on in the eighth and got pinch-hitter Larry Barnes to line into an inning-ending double play, and Troy Percival pitched a perfect ninth for his 14th save.

In eight games since coming off the disabled list June 7, Percival has not given up a hit in eight innings and has saved seven games.

"This definitely could be the start of something," said Lackey, who has been victimized by the big inning in many of his starts. "I'm going to build on it."

Angel Manager Mike Scioscia said Friday night "might have been the best game I've seen John pitch," and he meant ever, not this season.

"He worked ahead in the count, he changed speeds, he worked the corners," Scioscia said. "To beat a pitcher of Kevin Brown's caliber not only once but twice in the same week, you need good pitching, and Lackey provided that."

Of course, to beat an offense of the Dodgers' caliber requires little. The addition of a designated hitter to one of baseball's least productive teams Friday night was like giving diet pills to a starving man. It had no impact.

The Dodgers were shut out for the fifth time this season, leaving normally talkative Manager Jim Tracy at a loss for words.

"I think we could have beaten Lackey -- I don't know what made him so tough," Tracy said, waving reporters out of his office after only three questions. "That's all I've got. See you later."

Tracy said the Dodgers' offensive woes have created a "mild form of anxiety, but we haven't complained about it," he said. "If we had, we wouldn't be 45-33. We recognize there are people in our clubhouse underachieving. We know we're not the 1927 Yankees and that we don't need a touchdown to win every night, but we need something more than what we've been getting."

The Dodgers couldn't have asked for a better scoring chance when Jolbert Cabrera doubled to open the seventh and took third on a wild pitch, but No. 3 batter Shawn Green grounded to first for the first out, Cabrera holding.

Scioscia then tossed the percentages out the window, having the right-handed Lackey walk right-handed Paul Lo Duca intentionally to put runners on first and third to set up the possible double play for left-handed Daryle Ward.

Scioscia didn't win American League manager-of-the-year honors last season for nothing. Ward grounded Lackey's first pitch right to second baseman Adam Kennedy, who started a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.

"I felt if we scored in the seventh, the game was ours," Tracy said.

Instead, the Angels took it in the bottom of the seventh.

Troy Glaus flared a single into right to open the inning, took second on Bengie Molina's sacrifice bunt and third on Adam Kennedy's groundout.

Up stepped the light-hitting Eckstein, and over and in went Dodger center fielder Dave Roberts, who shifted to shallow right-center to guard against what Eckstein seems to do best -- dunk singles over the second baseman's head.

Eckstein, with the precision of a master dart-thrower, responded with a drive to deep left center that Roberts probably would have caught had he played Eckstein straight up. But the ball fell for an RBI triple and a 1-0 Angel lead.

Dodger second baseman Alex Cora made a diving stop of DaVanon's shot to the hole but couldn't make the throw to first, as Eckstein scored for a 2-0 lead. Scott Spiezio's double and Kennedy's two-out single in the eighth made it 3-0.

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