Lackey slows down as Angels fall
Starter effective early, but finishes with five runs allowed
ANAHEIM -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia was left with one of those difficult decisions that can make or break a game in the seventh inning of the Angels' game against the Tigers on Monday.
Right-hander John Lackey, notorious for being the workhorse of the rotation, had already thrown 113 pitches through six innings but wanted to come out for the seventh.
Scioscia decided to keep Lackey in against the top of the Tigers' order, but the choice didn't pay off, as Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco hit back-to-back triples on his 116th and 117th pitches of the game leading to what turned out to be the game-winning runs in the Angels' 5-3 loss in front of 42,970 at Angel Stadium.
"We've been using our bullpen a lot," Scioscia reasoned after the game. "I really liked the way John finished the sixth inning and I thought he was throwing the ball well."
But with the back-to-back triples and the second run eventually coming in to score, Lackey was out of the game and ultimately was denied career win No. 100.
It also marked the Angels' fifth loss in the last six games as the team's lead in the American League West fell to four games over the Rangers.
"There's always concern when you're losing games, no matter the time of the year," Lackey said of the team's recent funk. "It probably gets magnified in August and September, but you've got to get back to playing the way we were playing for a while. You can't play that hot forever. The way the guys were swinging, it was unreal. You had to expect it to come down sometime."
The offense was the problem on Tuesday as the Angels couldn't find ways to knock in runners in scoring position as the club went 1-for-10 in those situations.
But Scioscia pointed out that the Tigers made some terrific defensive plays in those situations, such as a diving stop that was turned into a double play by third baseman Brandon Inge in the first inning, a running catch by Granderson in left-center also coming in the first and a leaping catch by right fielder Clete Thomas on a ball hit to the wall by Kendry Morales with a runner on in the eighth inning
"We played a little better than it showed, especially with runners in scoring position, because we hit some balls hard that might've changed the complexion of the game," Scioscia said. "Give those guys credit. They made great plays."
The defensive plays helped make former Angel left-hander Jarrod Washburn effective, as his only blemish came on a three-run home run by Howard Kendrick in the second inning.
"He's a good pitcher, but we faced him in Seattle a lot," Kendrick said of Washburn. "He made his pitches, but it seems like earlier in the game, we got it done, but later in the game he got some ground balls and kept his team in there."
Kendrick's homer, which came after back-to-back singles by Juan Rivera and Erick Aybar, gave the Angels an early 3-1 lead.
"It was just a four-seam fastball in a 2-0 count," Kendrick said. "I was looking for a ball out over the plate and he threw it right where I was looking for it."
But the Tigers came back in the fifth on a pair of solo homers by Granderson and Miguel Cabrera to tie the game.
"I thought he was good as the game went on by hitting his spots well," Scioscia said of Lackey, who allowed five runs on 11 hits over six-plus innings. "He felt strong, but he just made a couple mistakes to Granderson and Cabrera to tie the game in the fifth."
In the sixth, Lackey was able to get out of a jam by getting Ramon Santiago to ground into a double play with two runners on, giving Scioscia the confidence to leave Lackey out there.
Granderson, though, led off the seventh by hitting a 1-1 fastball off the right-field wall on a ball that was reviewed by the umpires but was ultimately ruled a triple. After the long delay, Polanco followed with a triple on the first pitch he saw and Lackey's night was over.
Polanco then scored on a sacrifice fly by Magglio Ordonez against reliever Jason Bulger, giving the Tigers a two-run lead they wouldn't relinquish.
But the Angels made it interesting in the bottom of the seventh inning with the bases loaded and two outs and Aybar at the plate against reliever Zach Miner, but Bobby Abreu was called out at home plate after trying to score on a ball that got past catcher Alex Avila.
"Those guys made one heck of a play on that," Scioscia said. "That play was right in front of Bobby and he got a good read and a great break. Avila and Miner coming in, that's a great play. When it was first off his glove, I was hoping he was coming."
Abreu blamed himself for ending the rally and said that after he saw the replay, home-plate umpire Chad Fairchild made the right call.
"I think I was too aggressive in that situation," Abreu said. "You have to make sure you're safe on that. I killed the rally. I saw the replay. I was out."
And then in the eighth, the Angels had a runner on and Morales hit a long drive to right field that was snared by Thomas at the wall.
"I had a great jump and a great read of it off the bat," Thomas said. "It was just a matter of whether I was going to run out of room."
The Angels threatened again in the ninth with two runners on and no outs against closer Fernando Rodney but couldn't score a run with Torii Hunter flying out to center, Vladimir Guerrero lining out to second and Rivera grounding out to second to end to the game.
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.