Angels ride seven-run fourth past Giants
Lackey strikes out 10, delivers first career hit and RBI
SAN FRANCISCO -- There are slumps and there are droughts. This was a drought of epic proportions.
"You hear guys in here talk about going 0-for-10," John Lackey said late Monday night. "I was 0-for-seven years. Now, that's a slump."
Reflecting on his only previous Major League hit -- in Game 4 of the 2002 World Series in the same ballpark -- Lackey was in a great mood in the afterglow of the Angels' 9-7 decision over the persistent Giants on Monday night in front of 33,613 at AT&T Park.
"I'm not going to say I'm a good hitter, but I finally got that monkey off my back," Lackey said, referring to 26 official regular-season at-bats without a hit.
"The National League game is fun. As an American League pitcher, it's definitely kind of nice to come over here and have one less hitter to deal with."
Lackey, who crushed junior college pitching in Texas as a first baseman, delivered his RBI single to center to claim a 10-pitch duel against Barry Zito, a former AL Cy Young Award winner.
A seven-run fourth inning -- highlighted by a pair of homers and Lackey's first hit and RBI -- was the difference when the Giants made a late push behind slugging Pablo Sandoval, who accounted for four runs with a pair of homers.
The second, a drive to left-center virtually off his shoelaces on a quality pitch by Kevin Jepsen, brought Brian Fuentes out for a three-pitch save. No. 17 gave the lefty the American League lead over Boston's Jonathan Papelbon.
"These guys are playing great baseball," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of the Giants, who were coming off a cross-bay sweep of the A's with seven wins in their previous 10 games. "Fortunately for us, we got the lead and John got us to a point in the game -- and we sort of limped home.
"It's good to see us driving the ball and carrying over what happened over the weekend [26 runs in a three-game sweep of the Padres]. We needed every run."
Erick Aybar and Bobby Abreu smacked back-to-back homers during the fourth-inning uprising that included successive doubles by Juan Rivera, Robb Quinlan and Mike Napoli.
Rivera launched a solo homer in the second inning to get the Angels started against Zito. Rivera's homer, a towering drive to left, was his ninth of the year and third in two days.
Aybar went deep for the second time this season, his smash to left allowing Lackey to trot home after his RBI single, and Abreu greeted reliever Justin Miller with his third homer, a drive to right.
Sean Rodriguez, who was leading the Pacific Coast League with 21 homers and 60 RBIs when he was recalled on Saturday, joined the long-ball party with his first of the season and fourth of his career.
Making his first start at second base, Rodriguez found the seats in left-center in the eighth inning against Brandon Medders.
"You have to drive the ball to get it out where he did," Scioscia said.
The Angels, rising to 6-1 against the NL, must be spending their off days at Muscle Beach. Suddenly flexing, they have 13 big flies in their past four games.
Lackey, ending a stretch of four winless outings, moved to 2-2 with the victory. His 10 strikeouts were a season high, and he walked none.
"I really established the ball inside early in the game," Lackey said, "and that allowed me to get guys to go after the curveball. It's probably the best curveball I've had so far this year."
Zito fell to 3-7, and Lackey's at-bat had more than a little to do with it.
"Barry was getting the ball up a little bit," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "Especially when he was ahead in the count, he had trouble making a pitch. They took advantage of it. They were grinding out at-bats, too."
Lackey's clean single to center on a full count cashed in Napoli for a 5-0 lead.
"The guy's an AL Cy Young winner," Lackey said. "He's had a great career -- and he's still having one."
Quinlan's double to left, his second of three hits, drove in two runs, while Napoli went the other way for his RBI double. Both blows came on 0-2 changeups, deepening Zito's frustration.
Aybar's blast to left ended Zito's night.
Torii Hunter, who came into the game tied with the Yankees' Mark Teixeira for the American League slugging lead at .620, had a single in three at-bats before leaving the game after another violent collision with a wall. It came in the fourth as he was chasing Bengie Molina's double against the 382-foot sign in left center.
Hunter departed for X-rays, which showed his right rib cage, the area of concern, to be normal. He'll be re-evaluated on Tuesday. Hunter said it was doubtful he'd start the final two games of the series, given the degree of pain in his ribs.
Consecutive one-out singles by Eli Whiteside, Sandoval and Rich Aurilia ended Lackey's shutout bid in the sixth after he'd struck out the side in the fifth.
Giants outfielder Andres Torres unloaded the first "Splash Hit" of the season into McCovey Cove, a two-run blast, in the seventh. Sandoval homered in the eighth against Justin Speier and had lift-off against Jepsen an inning later.
"That guy can hit," Scisocia said, alluding to Sandoval.
He could have been referring to Lackey, as well. Finally.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.