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John Lackey will try to get Angels to a Game 6

The right-hander takes the hill for Game 5 to stave off elimination. 'I'm sure he's going to be ready,' Yankees' Derek Jeter says.

October 22, 2009|Jim Peltz and Kevin Baxter

John Lackey turns 31 on Friday and the Angels' ace hopes to give himself a birthday present: a sixth playoff game between the Angels and the New York Yankees.

The right-hander will start Game 5 of the American League Championship Series tonight as the Angels, in a 3-1 hole in the best-of-seven series, try to stave off elimination at Angel Stadium.

Despite New York's comfortable margin in the series -- and despite having beaten Lackey and the Angels in Game 1 of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium -- the Yankees hold considerable respect for the 6-foot-6 Texan.

"It's going to be tough, Lackey's a great pitcher," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said Wednesday before the teams held off-day workouts at Angel Stadium.

"He's their horse, he's the guy that's been there for a long time and I'm sure he's going to be ready," Jeter said.

Lackey faces the Yankees' A.J. Burnett, a right-hander who started Game 2 and gave up two runs in 6 1/3 innings before the Yankees won the game, 4-3, in 13 innings.

Lackey "has to go out there and give us a chance to win," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We're very confident he's going to do that."

If the Angels lose tonight, this could be Lackey's final game as an Angel because he's a free agent after this season. Lackey was asked Wednesday if he had thought about that.

"I'm trying my best to just stay in the moment and try to help this team win and get on to the next game," he said. "I'm not looking any further ahead than tomorrow."

As a rookie, Lackey led the Angels to their only championship by winning the seventh game of the 2002 World Series. He's now tied with Frank Tanana for fourth among Angels pitchers in career wins with 102.

"He's always a challenge," Yankees left fielder Johnny Damon said of Lackey. "His fastball is pretty sneaky. It only says 91 [mph], but it feels a bit harder. And he comes right after guys."

Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira agreed. "I've been facing Lackey since my rookie year in 2003," he said. "He's a bulldog. I've got a lot of respect for that guy."

It takes four

The last time the Yankees found themselves one win away from a World Series they had a collapse of historic proportions, losing four straight to the Boston Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS. And if that experience taught the Yankees anything, it's that three wins aren't enough.

"We can't change the way we approach things," catcher Jorge Posada said in Spanish. "We have to try to keep taking it one day at time and not think too far ahead. We just have to think of tomorrow and not beyond that."

The Yankees' CC Sabathia was part of a Cleveland Indians team that endured a similar collapse two years ago. One win away from a pennant, the Indians lost three straight to the Red Sox and wound up watching Boston win the World Series on television.

"You can get complacent. And there's no room for that at this time of year," said Sabathia, who beat the Angels in Games 1 and 4 of this ALCS. "We were feeling pretty good at that point. And we couldn't get it done.

"You've just got to go out and keep putting it on them and try to wrap it up as soon as possible."

Added Damon: "We didn't come out to win three games in a series and be happy about it. We'll be happy if we get that fourth win. We still have a job to do."


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