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BILL SHAIKIN / ON BASEBALL

Rain could precipitate Game 7 start for Angels' John Lackey

Saturday's rainout of ALCS Game 6 could work in Angels' favor, if they can win Sunday to force Game 7 against Yankees. Then they'd be able to throw their ace Monday.

October 25, 2009|BILL SHAIKIN

NEW YORK — The heavens blessed the Angels.

The rain won at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, but so did the visiting team.

If the Angels get to Game 7 on Monday, following two days off and Game 6 tonight, they could have several attractive choices for their starting pitcher.

"Are you . . . me?" John Lackey said. "This is mine."

Lackey said that Thursday, as Mike Scioscia pulled him from Game 5 with a shutout intact. Lackey did not say that Saturday, but he did not have to.

If the Angels get to Game 7, it's his.

All we heard before the series was how the mighty New York Yankees could vanquish the Angels by using CC Sabathia three times. The Angels have the extra day in their favor now, and they're just as confident in using Lackey three times.

Scioscia said all the right things Saturday, about how the Angels would not look ahead, would have every pitcher available tonight, would not talk about Game 7 before winning Game 6.

But, from every corner of the clubhouse, you could sense the anticipation that Lackey would pitch Game 7, the faith in him to deliver.

Scott Kazmir: "If we can get Lackey going in Game 7, we have a lot of confidence in that game. We're excited about that."

Brian Fuentes: "He's one of the best big-game pitchers I've seen, so it should be fun. He's coming into free agency, and if I'm a GM, that's a guy I'd put at the top of my list."

Jered Weaver: "That's our horse. That's a guy who loves to pitch big games. We all do, but obviously he's had a little more experience in that regard."

Weaver, understand, is the guy who would have started a Game 7, until the rains came. He said he expected Lackey to start, without a trace of disappointment in his voice.

"I'm good with whatever, just as long as we keep this ride going," Weaver said. "I'm here to do whatever they need me to do. I'm not going to hang my head."

Lackey relishes the mano a mano combat, ace vs. ace. He would have loved three shots at Sabathia, but the Angels did not juggle their rotation to accommodate that, did not decide to match their best three starters against the Yankees' best three starters.

"We have four guys that deserved to pitch in the series," Lackey said. "I think we're a little deeper in the rotation. I think Scioscia did the right thing."

Sabathia has given up three earned runs in 22 2/3 innings in this postseason. Lackey had given up two earned runs in 19 2/3 innings, until Scioscia yanked him the other night and Darren Oliver allowed all three inherited runners to score.

Scioscia's decision set Lackey off. It might have been Lackey's last start of the season, of his Angels career. Now he could get Game 7.

"If it works out that I get out there," Lackey said with a dry wit and a twinkle in his eye, "I won't complain about that."

Lackey relaxed amid the rain Saturday, watching college football.

"Michigan, until they started getting worked," he said.

Then Alabama, and all those field goals.

"Brutal," Lackey said.

His team, Texas Tech, had blown out Nebraska last week.

"Erstad's mad," he said.

That would be Darin Erstad, who caught the final out of Game 7 of the 2002 World Series.

That was the last time the Angels played a Game 7, when the winning pitcher was a rookie named John Lackey.

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bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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