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Lackey dominates A's again

Angels get their sixth win in a row, a 3-1 victory over Oakland in which their ace improves to 13-3 in 24 career starts against division rival.

June 07, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

OAKLAND -- Asked if there was any particular reason he has owned the Oakland Athletics, a run of dominance that continued in the Angels' 3-1 victory in McAfee Coliseum on Friday night, ace John Lackey didn't put his finger on anything.

He put his toe on it.

"I definitely like the mound here," Lackey said after allowing one run and four hits in seven innings, striking out five and walking none, to improve to 13-3 with a 2.77 earned-run average in 24 career starts against Oakland.

"It's a nice mound. It's sticky, and it doesn't dig out real easily. It's firm. It's been a good place to pitch."

Lackey, who is 7-2 with a 2.92 ERA in Oakland, threw the best game of his career here on July 7, 2006, allowing a leadoff double to Mark Kotsay and retiring the next 27 batters, and Friday night was beginning to look like a carbon copy of that gem.

Bobby Crosby singled with one out in the first, and Lackey retired 15 in a row before Kurt Suzuki's one-out double in the sixth.

Jack Cust's leadoff home run in the seventh broke up Lackey's shutout bid and trimmed the Angels' lead to 3-1.

But Jose Arredondo threw a scoreless eighth -- the rookie right-hander hasn't allowed a run in 10 2/3 innings -- and Francisco Rodriguez retired the side in order in the ninth for his major league-leading 25th save.

That preserved the win for Lackey, who is 2-1 with a 1.70 ERA in five starts this season after missing the first six weeks because of a triceps strain. "You want to make every game count," Lackey said. "I missed the first month and a half. I want to help the team as much as I can because I'll have limited opportunities."

Lackey out-pitched A's right-hander Joe Blanton on Friday to help the Angels extend their win streak to six, end Oakland's win streak at four and open a 4 1/2 -game lead over their division rivals.

The Angels managed only seven hits, and in their last 16 games, they're batting .218 with 51 runs, an average of 3.1 a game. But they are 12-4 in those games.

"The offense still isn't where it needs to be," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We've been pitching great baseball and catching the ball, but at some point that offensive continuity has to reappear, because we can't continue to put that kind of pressure on our pitching."

Lackey had a one-run cushion before he took the mound, as Maicer Izturis, for the first time in his career, led off a game with a home run, a shot to right field.

Izturis has a .414 average (12 for 29) against Blanton, and two of his 14 career homers have come against him.

The Angels capitalized on some shoddy defense to take a 2-0 lead in the third. With one out, Izturis reached on a throwing error by Crosby, the A's shortstop.

Howie Kendrick hit a routine double-play grounder to short, but second baseman Mark Ellis' relay pulled first baseman Daric Barton off the bag, and Kendrick was safe.

That extended the inning for Garret Anderson, who walked, and Vladimir Guerrero, who reached for an outside pitch and poked a run-scoring single to right-center field.

The Angels made it 3-0 in the seventh when Gary Matthews Jr. led off with a double and scored on Jeff Mathis' one-out single.

Not exactly an offensive windfall, but it was more than enough for Lackey, who kept his fastball down, spotted it on the corners and mixed in some outstanding curves.

"John's stuff has been sharp," Scioscia said. "Tonight, he located his fastball extremely well and had all his breaking pitches. He had a good two-seamer, good fastball command, and a lot of life on his ball, too. That's the way we've seen John for a long time."

Unfortunately for the A's, so have they.

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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