NEW YORK — Trouble found John Lackey immediately Friday night, when the Angels pitcher gave up singles to Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon to open the first inning, and the Yankees pressured the right-hander all evening, forcing him to make 114 pitches in 5 2/3 innings.
But for as poorly as the Angels played, committing three errors and letting an infield popup drop for a hit in a 4-1 loss in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, Lackey actually pitched well enough to keep them in the game, giving up four runs -- two earned -- and nine hits.
"It almost makes it a little easier to turn the page because we didn't play to our capabilities tonight," Lackey said. "We've got to come back and get them" in Game 2.
Lackey has been known to vent his frustrations when play behind him gets sloppy, but no fingers were pointed Friday night. It might have had something to do with the fact that Lackey committed one of the Angels' errors, an errant pick-off throw to first.
"It happens sometimes," Lackey said. "We know we can play better, and if we do, I like our chances against them."
Kelvim Escobar, limited by a shoulder injury to one start this season, threw several bullpen sessions in Miami in September in hopes of being ready for the playoffs, but his comeback attempt fell short.
"I didn't have the confidence, and it wasn't worth it to push myself," said Escobar, who joined the Angels in Yankee Stadium on Friday. "I feel good, but when I throw hard, I still feel a little sore, and my recovery is slow."
Escobar's three-year, $28.5-million contract expires after this season, and the veteran right-hander said he "would love" to return to the Angels in 2010, but he knows it would be under an incentive-laden deal with a low base salary.
He will return to his native Venezuela to pitch winter ball "to show people I'm healthy, and I'll go from there," Escobar said.
Manager Mike Scioscia chose left-hander Joe Saunders over Scott Kazmir to start Game 2 tonight because Saunders' power sinker should play better in Yankee Stadium against a lineup heavy on left-handed power.
"I thought his stuff would match up better in this park than anywhere else," Scioscia said. "It's important to do as much as you can to keep these guys in the ballpark in this stadium. And I think Joe has the ability, when he's throwing his sinker, to do that."
Rain and near-freezing temperatures are forecast for tonight, but Saunders, who grew up in Northern Virginia and pitched at Virginia Tech, said he won't be fazed.
"The cold weather is not going to affect me, and the rain, certainly, I've dealt with a lot of that," Saunders said. "For me, it's just another bad [weather] day, but a great day to play baseball."
If Game 2 is rained out and moved to Sunday, the off day will probably be pushed to Monday and Games 3, 4 and 5 would be played Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in Anaheim.
That would eliminate the off day after Game 4 and prevent the Yankees from using CC Sabathia three times in the series. Scioscia will go with a four-man rotation regardless of weather delays.