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ANGELS REPORT

Lackey bammed in Boston again

August 18, 2007|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

BOSTON -- You didn't have to look at the scoreboard to see how ugly the first inning was for John Lackey. All you had to do was look at Lackey.

The eighth batter of the inning doubled, and Lackey shook his head, as if he couldn't believe it. The ninth batter doubled too, and Lackey slumped behind the mound, hands on knees. The 10th batter made the third out, and Lackey retreated to the dugout, took off his glove and hurled it against the dugout wall.

That was the first inning of the first game of a doubleheader, an inning in which the Boston Red Sox roughed up the Angels' ace for six runs and seven hits. Lackey vented his frustration on the field and in speaking with reporters after the game.

Boston rolled to an 8-4 win, with the Angels rebounding to take the nightcap, 7-5, a split for the teams with the best records in baseball. This question lingered: If the Angels face the Red Sox in the playoffs, can Lackey beat them?

"If I pitch the way I'm capable of pitching," Lackey said, "it doesn't matter who we play."

Lackey needed 46 pitches to get out of the first inning, in which he gave up five extra-base hits. Boston hit for the cycle within the first five batters, including a home run from David Ortiz.

Lackey lasted four innings, giving up seven runs and 11 hits. The last time he had a shorter start came in Boston in 2004, when he gave up six runs in 3 1/3 innings. In 11 career starts against the Red Sox, he is 1-6 with a 6.27 earned-run average.

The Angels' defensive follies did not help matters, most notably on a play when Boston scored a run because right fielder Vladimir Guerrero overthrew the wrong base and Lackey failed to back up.

Center fielder Reggie Willits misplayed two caroms off the outfield wall, Willits and Guerrero bumped each other on one fly ball and third baseman Chone Figgins and left fielder Garret Anderson ran into each other on another fly ball.

But, the way he told it, Lackey appeared to be in a foul mood even before the game started. He said pitching coach Mike Butcher had asked him last week whether he preferred to start the day or night game.

"When we left L.A., I expected to pitch in the night game," Lackey said.

Manager Mike Scioscia said he opted to start him in the day game so he would not sit around all afternoon. Lackey thus faced Clay Buchholz, who was making his first start, rather than Josh Beckett, who is tied with Lackey for the major league lead in victories.

"You'd think they'd want me to go against a guy like that," Lackey said. "It would have been fun."

Perhaps Lackey and Beckett could face off in October, in Game 1 of a potential playoff series. The Angels would have an excellent alternative in Kelvim Escobar, but Scioscia said he wouldn't be spooked to start Lackey against Boston.

"John is a premier pitcher in this league," Scioscia said. "He had a bad start today. Maybe he's had a couple bad starts against Boston. We're not going to make too much of it."

In his first Boston appearance since calling Red Sox fans loud, drunk and obnoxious last week and describing Fenway Park as "one of the few places where you hear racial comments," Angels center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. was booed loudly in every at-bat. A few fans chanted "steroids," a reference to a spring report that alleged he received an illegal shipment of human growth hormone.

Some fans waited all week to heckle him, but Matthews was not impressed.

"It's the usual," he said. "I always get booed here. It's just as much a show of respect and appreciation as much as them not liking you. They don't boo you when you suck."

And the "steroids" chants?

"I get that everywhere," he said.

Catcher Ryan Budde got his first major league hit, a single off Beckett. . . . First baseman Casey Kotchman had a career-high four hits in the first game. He's hitting .306. . . . The Angels optioned infielder Matt Brown to triple-A Salt Lake.

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bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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