Lackey joins elite group with 100th win
Ace becomes fifth Angels pitcher to reach milestone
ANAHEIM -- John Lackey climbed a personal summit on Sunday, fittingly at the hands of the Athletics, an American League West rival he has dominated through the years.
The big Texan enjoyed the view, along with the company.
Notching his 100th career victory in an Angels uniform with a 9-1 decision at Angel Stadium in front of 38,018, Lackey joined Nolan Ryan, Frank Tanana, Chuck Finley and Mike Witt as the only pitchers in franchise history to have reached the century mark.
"Come on, man, I'm a distant fifth," Lackey said with a grin when asked where he stacked up in a Ryan, Tanana, Finley and Witt rotation. "Where I'm from, you're not allowed to say Nolan and your name in the same sentence."
There it is, nonetheless. Lackey, moving to 16-4 against the A's, is in that exclusive club with The Express, the all-time strikeout king he grew up admiring in Abilene, Texas.
"I'm definitely happy to get it done here, to do it in front of our fans," Lackey said. "I saw some signs in the crowd -- "100," that kind of thing -- after I left, on TV. I don't see much when I'm out there. I appreciate that stuff."
Lackey, a stalwart in the rotation since the championship season of 2002 who is eligible for free agency after the season, wasn't the only Angels player celebrating a milestone day after Oakland southpaw Brett Anderson took a shutout into the fifth inning.
With a three-run homer, his 30th of the season, in the eighth inning against lefty Jay Marshall, Kendry Morales reached a club-record 33 RBIs for August. The record formerly belonged to Bobby Bonds (1977).
Asked how he'd pitch a scalding Morales, who leads the club with 94 RBIs after collecting nine in the four-game split with Oakland, Lackey grinned again.
"Depends on who's behind him," the ace said. "I've been around. I'm not dumb."
In a serious vein, Lackey called it "a big deal" getting to triple figures, "considering the guys who have done it in this uniform."
Hitless in four at-bats against his former teammate, A's second baseman Adam Kennedy applauded Lackey's work.
"It just goes to show how tough it is," Kennedy said. "It's not easy. You have to stay healthy and have some luck along the way, decision-wise. Competition-wise, he hasn't lost a beat. He's still the guy you want when you need a win.
"Pitching-wise, he got away with things before because of his stuff. Now he knows what he's doing. He executes a lot of his pitches and doesn't make a lot of mistakes. That's why he's one of the best."
Scoreless entering the fifth against Anderson, who pitched a masterpiece against Lackey and the Angels in Oakland on July 19, the Halos erupted for four runs. Torii Hunter's three-run homer was the big blow of the day, coming after Chone Figgins' RBI double.
"He struck me out with that same pitch [high fastball] my first time up [in the first inning]," Hunter said. "This time I was ready for it. That felt good, really good."
Feeling not so good, Anderson fell to 7-10.
Athletics manager Bob Geren, who watched Anderson retire the first 20 Angels he faced in July before Bobby Abreu singled, felt his young lefty missed his spot on Hunter's game-breaking drive.
"The pitch was supposed to be inside, running in on him," Geren said, "but he left it up and over the plate. It might've even been a ball, but he got on top of it. Torii Hunter is a good player, and that's his strength right there."
The inning started with Howard Kendrick's single. He moved up on Jeff Mathis' single and scored on Figgins' double. Hunter followed Erick Aybar's bullet to first for a fielder's choice with his drive over the wall in center.
"We beat a pretty good pitcher today," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "This kid's young, but he had great stuff. The key at-bat was Torii, after Aybar hit that bullet to first base. Torii didn't miss that first fastball, out over the plate."
Despite missing a month with a right adductor strain in the groin area, Hunter has 19 homers and 73 RBIs to go with his .313 average and .552 slugging percentage.
Morales' .593 slugging percentage has him second in the AL to Joe Mauer of the Twins and ahead of the man he replaced at first base, Mark Teixeira of the Yankees.
"He had a very good series," Geren said of Morales, who was 9-for-16 with three homers. "We'll have to reevaluate him and how we're pitching him to see if it's the pitches he's seeing or if they're mistakes."
Lackey surrendered an unearned run in the third inning. Daric Barton singled and took third on Eric Patterson's double before Lackey's pickoff attempt at second on Patterson was mishandled by Aybar for an error, allowing Barton to score.
"That was one of John's best of the season," said Mathis, who called the pitches. "He was locating his fastball, and his other stuff was sharp. That's a nice accomplishment for him, getting to 100. That's a lot of wins."
Finishing the homestand 3-4, the Angels pushed their AL West lead back to five games over the Rangers, who lost in Minnesota.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.