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ANGELS 2, KANSAS CITY 1 (11 innings)

John Lackey wins pitching duel in Angels victory

The ace allows one run in nine innings, gives up six hits and walks none. Torri Hunter scores on Erick Aybar's two-out single in the 11 inning.

September 06, 2009|MIKE DIGIOVANNA

KANSAS CITY, MO. — It was a marquee pitching matchup that didn't disappoint, a pair of aces bringing out the best in each other but dueling to a draw.

Neither Angels right-hander John Lackey nor Kansas City right-hander Zack Greinke figured in the decision Saturday night, which was probably fitting, because neither deserved to lose.

Not until the 11th inning, after Lackey and Greinke combined to put up 15 zeros and give up two runs, was this one decided.

Torii Hunter, who knocked in the tying run with a clutch, two-out, single off Greinke in the eighth, singled to lead off the 11th, took second on a wild pitch and scored on Erick Aybar's one-out single to lift the Angels to a dramatic 2-1 victory in Kauffman Stadium.

With Texas losing to Baltimore, the Angels pushed their American League West lead over the Rangers to 4 1/2 games.

"You know it's not going to be a high-scoring game with those two guys pitching," Angels third baseman Chone Figgins said. "But it's a game you love to play in because you know it's going to be pitch to pitch, play to play."

Greinke, who has a league-leading 2.22 earned-run average, is the front-runner for the AL Cy Young Award. Lackey loved facing another ace.

"That's my job, man," he said. "I'm here to win these games."

Lackey gave up a run on Billy Butler's RBI single in the first and retired the next 17 batters. He gave up one run in nine innings, gave up six hits, walked none and struck out four, including Mark Teahen looking at a 94-mph fastball, his 106th and final pitch of the game.

Lackey has been known to get up a little more for big games, but Manager Mike Scioscia thought the pitcher had "a relaxed focus -- he wasn't too amped up."

Hunter noticed it too.

"He seemed relaxed before the game," Hunter said. "But he gets on the mound, and he's a bulldog. You can see it in his eyes. When they put the camera on his face, man, he's locked in. He pitched a great game against a great pitcher."

Greinke threw a career-high 125 pitches in eight innings, giving up one unearned run and eight hits, striking out eight and walking two. The Angels finally nicked him for a run in the eighth.

Figgins led off with a one-hop smash off the glove of second baseman Willie Bloomquist, a play that was remarkably scored an error, perhaps a hometown decision to preserve Greinke's ERA.

Asked what he thought of the error, Scioscia said, "What error? That ball was smoked."

Maicer Izturis followed with a hit-and-run single to right, advancing Figgins to third. Greinke struck out Bobby Abreu and got Vladimir Guerrero to pop out to the catcher, which gave Hunter, who was on deck, a sinking feeling.

"I dropped a straight curse word there," Hunter said. "Dang, Greinke is one of the best pitchers in the game, a bulldog, we had first and third with no outs, and he got two great hitters to strike out and pop up. I had to do something."

Greinke's fastball hit 97 mph during Hunter's at-bat, but it was an 83-mph curve that Hunter lined to left-center to tie the score, 1-1.

"I wasn't even looking curve -- I was looking dead-red fastball after he hit 97," Hunter said. "He left a pitch up, and I hit it."

Until the eighth, it was a night of frustration for the Angels, who failed to score after Aybar led off the third with the double and after putting runners on first and third with one out in the fifth.

The fifth ended when Aybar, one of the team's fastest runners, was gunned down at the plate trying to tag and score on Figgins' fly ball to left fielder David DeJesus.

But Aybar's 11th-inning single off reliever Yasuhiko Yabuto put the Angels ahead, Brian Fuentes threw a scoreless 11th for his 39th save, and Greinke, who lost a 1-0 game in Anaheim on May 9, remained in awe of the Angels.

"They've got great pitching, great defense, a great manager, great hitting, a great bullpen," Greinke said. "They find a way to win. If some balls fell for us, and we had scored more, they probably would have still found a way to win. They just have a great team."

--

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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