ARLINGTON, TEXAS — John Lackey's short game needs a little work.
A mere two pitches into his 2009 season, Lackey was tossed off the mound Saturday, a pair of wayward fastballs resulting in a swift and stunning ejection of the Angels' ace in a 5-3 loss to the Texas Rangers.
Some three hours after Lackey's first pitch sailed behind the head of Ian Kinsler and his second pitch hit Kinsler in the ribs, the Angels were still bewildered by what transpired at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
"I was definitely shocked," said Lackey, who missed the first month and a half of the season because of a forearm strain. "I haven't pitched in six weeks, and I was amped up. I was trying to come in on him, but there was no intention at all to hit him or throw behind him."
Perhaps if home-plate umpire Bob Davidson had issued a warning after the first pitch, his actions after the second pitch might have been warranted.
"But there was no warning -- none," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "Evidently, he felt there was some history [between the teams] and that John was throwing at Kinsler, which was absurd."
There has been bad blood between the Angels and Rangers, but it is ancient, by baseball standards.
The clubs brawled in 2005 and several times in 2006, though the instigator of those 2006 skirmishes, Vicente Padilla, was on the mound Saturday, giving up three runs and 10 hits in eight innings to gain the win.
Lackey scoffed at a suggestion that he might have been upset by a "bulletin-board quote" from Rangers outfielder Marlon Byrd, who told the Dallas Morning News before the series that Lackey "better bring his 'A' game" Saturday.
"If you know anything about me, I would go straight to the source if I was going to do something," Lackey said. "I would tell you I was going to do something, I would tell you I did it, and I would stand up and own it. I did not try to throw at him."
Davidson, who was infamous for his work at the 2006 World Baseball Classic, when he incorrectly ruled on a pair of critical calls, both in favor of the U.S. team, did not speak to a pool reporter about his decision, but crew chief Tim Tschida did.
"They banged the ball around pretty good [Friday night], and [Kinsler] hit two home runs," Tschida said, alluding to the Rangers' 10-8 victory. "When the first pitch of the next game to that hitter is behind him, that's a red flag.
"We gave [Lackey] the benefit of the doubt, because maybe he was a little amped up coming off the disabled list. When he hit him with the second pitch, that was something else."
Kinsler, who has a .400 career average (six for 15) with two homers against Lackey, said he "had no reason to think he was throwing at me," but he was not surprised by the ejection.
"It doesn't matter who is on the mound, what team it is, if the first pitch goes behind your head and the next one goes into your ribs, it's surprising," Kinsler said. "But we moved on. We focused on the game and got the win."
The Rangers (22-14) scored four runs in 3 1/3 innings against Lackey's replacement, Shane Loux, breaking a 3-3 tie with a pair of fourth-inning runs, to win their sixth consecutive game and extend their American League West lead over the Angels to 3 1/2 games.
After Thursday's 12-inning victory over Boston and Saturday's abbreviated start -- the shortest in the major leagues since Sept. 16, 2005, when Colorado's Zach Day was hit by a line drive and broke his thumb on his second pitch of a game against Arizona -- the Angels' bullpen has thrown 17 2/3 innings in the last three games.
"We played 12 innings [Thursday], our starter went five innings [Friday], I haven't pitched in weeks . . . the last thing I want to do is come out of the game early," said Lackey, whose next start could be pushed up to as early as Monday in Seattle.
"I feel terrible about it. This is not something we needed. I'm a lot smarter than that. If I'm going to do something, I'm not going to do it against the first batter of the game."
Where: Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
When: 11 a.m. PDT.
On the air: TV: Channel 13; Radio: 830, 1330.
Pitchers: Jered Weaver vs. Scott Feldman.
Update: In his last two starts Weaver subdued baseball's hottest offensive team and one of the game's better lineups, allowing one run in a complete-game victory over Toronto and one run and four hits in seven innings for a no-decision against Boston. He is 2-1 with a 2.54 ERA against Texas. Feldman began the season in the bullpen but has started four straight games, going 2-0 with a 2.74 ERA. He is 1-3 with a 6.39 ERA in 13 games (four starts) against the Angels.
-- Mike DiGiovanna