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Angels' Lackey strikingly good against A's, as usual

August 27, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

John Lackey has had a huge hand -- and arm -- in shifting the balance of power in the American League West toward Anaheim this decade, with a 33-18 career record against Seattle, Oakland and Texas since 2002.

But the Angels' right-hander reserves his harshest treatment of division foes for the Athletics, a team he has not merely owned but dominated, a run of supremacy that continued with Tuesday night's 5-1 victory over Oakland at Angel Stadium.

Lackey gave up seven hits, struck out five and walked none in his eighth career complete game, improving to 14-3 with a 2.67 earned-run average in 25 starts against the A's.

Of the 98 pitches Lackey threw, 73 were strikes. He threw first-pitch strikes to 23 of 32 batters and was so efficient with his two-seam fastballs and curve that he had only one three-ball count.

"I don't know man, I can't really explain it," Lackey (11-2) said of his success against the A's. "Most of the time they're big games, and it's fun to pitch in those games. That wasn't exactly the case tonight, but I enjoy pitching in those one-two matchups."

Oakland has sputtered with a 9-28 record since the All-Star break, and the injury-plagued A's are 20 1/2 games behind the first-place Angels, who reduced their magic number for clinching the division to 15.

But the A's have won three division titles and reached the AL Championship Series once during Lackey's Angels career, so it's not as if he has been fattening up on the dregs of the division.

"They've had clubs that make you get the ball over the plate and teams with a lot of power, and John's been in the league long enough where they've had a lot of turnover -- it's not like he's facing the same players year in and year out," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "I know the numbers are very good against those guys, but John's a good pitcher. He's having a good career."

Jack Cust's ninth-inning homer broke up Lackey's shutout, but the Angels had a commanding lead by then.

Chone Figgins sparked a four-run, third-inning outburst with a one-out walk, and Howie Kendrick, batting second in place of injured Erick Aybar, singled to center.

Mark Teixeira lined a hit-and-run single to left that scored Figgins and advanced Kendrick to third. Torii Hunter poked an RBI double to left, Juan Rivera hit a sacrifice fly to right, and Gary Matthews Jr. hit an RBI single to left. Mike Napoli's double and Kendrick's RBI single in the fourth made it 5-0.

The Angels got a scare in the third when A's first baseman Daric Barton cut off the throw from right on Rivera's sacrifice fly and hit Hunter in the back of the helmet with a relay throw as Hunter slid into third.

Hunter looked woozy as athletic trainer Ned Bergert came out to check on him.

"He asked what day it is," Hunter said. "Then he asked where I was, and I said Minnesota."

Hunter started laughing as Bergert waved a finger in front of his face to track Hunter's vision, and the center fielder remained in the game, singling in the fifth and racing to the wall to catch Cust's sixth-inning drive.

"I was a little dizzy, but just for a minute," Hunter said. "I've been there before. I've hit plenty of walls and foul poles in my life. It tightened up as the game went on, but I'll be ready to go [tonight].

"I'm glad my helmet stayed on. Sometimes it falls off when you run, and if I didn't have that on, I'd have been out. I would have taken a long nap right there."

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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