Angels dropped in Freeway Series finale
Offense unable to back Lackey's eight-inning outing
ANAHEIM -- If Dodgers catalyst Juan Pierre is ticketed for a lesser role as an active fourth outfielder with the impending return of Manny Ramirez, it didn't happen soon enough for John Lackey.
In a showdown with fellow Texan Clayton Kershaw, Lackey was undone by a pair of RBI doubles by Pierre as Kershaw and the Dodgers claimed a 5-3 decision on Sunday in front of 43,891 -- including Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant and his father -- at Angel Stadium.
"Lackey's been tough on me," Pierre said, his three hits hiking his average to .337. "I was 1-for-11 against him coming in and struck out my first at-bat, then resorted to a two-strike bunt and they still got me out.
"You try to make yourself be aggressive, because he's aggressive in the zone. On the first [double] down the right-field line, I did that and hit a fastball. The last one, I got in a good hitting count, 2-1, and went with a fastball. That felt good, finally doing something against a guy like Lackey."
From Lackey's disappointed perspective -- having thrown with good velocity and action on his breaking ball through eight innings but falling to 2-3 -- it was a "nice piece of hitting" by Pierre, "hitting it where we weren't playing."
Taking two of three in the Freeway Series, the Dodgers split the season series at three games apiece.
The fans were buzzing, totally into the game -- and that included King Kobe, who responded to the crowd's affections and the action on the field with exuberance and joy alongside his father, former NBA player Joe Bryant.
When someone asked Torii Hunter, who is roughly as central to the Angels' success as Bryant is to the Lakers, if the Dodgers had tested his team, his response was quick and to the point.
"This weekend was not a test," Hunter said. "We won two out of three there [at Dodger Stadium] and they won two out of three here. It's good matchups. Hopefully, that's the World Series. It'd be a lot of fun."
The Angels brought the potential tying run to the plate in the ninth after an RBI double by Hunter and run-scoring single by Juan Rivera against big Jonathan Broxton. But Mike Napoli grounded out sharply to Casey Blake at third to end it.
"We had plenty of opportunities," Hunter said. "We left  men stranded. That's not good."
The Angels were 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position, the Dodgers 5-for-11. That was the game in a nutshell.
Pierre's RBI double into the right-field corner in the fifth broke up a scoreless duel. Two innings later, Pierre went the other way, over left fielder Juan Rivera's head, for another RBI double and a two-run lead.
"The ball got up," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "There was a little jet stream there. You're trying to prevent a base hit [with a runner on second] from getting a run. He squared it up and got it over Juan's head. It happens."
James Loney's two-run homer in the eighth gave the Dodgers breathing room, and they needed it when the Angels scored a run on Blake's throwing error in the eighth -- leaving the bases loaded when Broxton struck out Erick Aybar -- and two more in the ninth with Abreu's single kick-starting the uprising.
"I felt like I was throwing the ball good," Lackey said, 74 of his 111 pitches in the strike zone. "They manufactured a couple of runs on me and got the home run."
Lackey escaped a bases-loaded predicament in the fourth when Loney lined out to Chone Figgins at third. Matt Kemp singled to center to open the fifth, advanced on Brad Ausmus' bunt and scored when Pierre lashed his double into the right-field corner.
The Angels let a bases-loaded none-out opportunity get away in the bottom of the fifth after two walks and a fielder's choice allowing Aybar to reach safely on a sacrifice bunt.
Abreu grounded into a pitcher-to-home-to-first double play, and Hunter popped up.
The Dodgers extended their lead in the seventh, Pierre once again delivering the big blow. His second double scored Kemp, who'd dropped a bunt single leading off and advanced again on a bunt by Ausmus. Pierre was out at third trying to stretch his double.
Kershaw, moving to 4-5 with his first win in four starts, departed having thrown 107 pitches, 63 for strikes, across seven scoreless innings. He walked four and struck out five while allowing four hits.
"He was erratic in the strike zone -- effectively wild," Hunter said.
Napoli had three of the Angels' eight hits, and Rivera lifted his average to .315 with two hits. Figgins, the leadoff catalyst, reached base three times with a single and two walks.
But the offense was unable to capitalize against Kershaw, and, in the end, Broxton, whose save was his 17th.
"They're a good club," Scioscia, the longtime Dodgers stalwart, said of his old team. "We know when we're right, we can play with anybody.
"We didn't get it done these last two days, but we've been playing better baseball -- and we can see a lot of positive things moving forward."
Coming to Angel Stadium on Monday night for the first of three games is the hottest team in the game, the Rockies. They have taken 16 of their past 17. With three clubs -- the Dodgers, Giants and Rockies -- above .500, the NL West is nobody's punch line now.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.