07/15/07 1:46 AM ET
Boo who? Lackey survives rough start
Right-hander ties for MLB lead in wins; Speier returns to action
By Larry Santana / MLB.com
At least there'd be no surprises amid all the boos.
Yes, boos. After surrendering three base knocks -- including an RBI single -- and a bases-loaded walk, and hitting a batter, the big right-hander was treated to a shower of audible disapproval from the sellout crowd at Angel Stadium.
But after the jeers subsided, Lackey walked away with the win. The offense, led by two-hit, two-RBI performances from Reggie Willits, Gary Matthews Jr. and Vladimir Guerrero, curtailed Lackey's initial troubles, and helped lift the Angels to a 9-5 win over the Rangers in the second game of a three-game series Saturday.
While cramming three innings worth of work and more than 40 pitches into the game's opening act, Lackey absorbed three runs (two earned), battled through nine batters, a botched force attempt at home, a coaching visit to the mound and an impromptu conference with catcher Jose Molina.
"I probably warmed up the best I warmed up this year," Lackey said. "I felt great in the bullpen. I was a little confused about what was going on. I knew I had been out there for a little while. I had a pretty good sweat going. Sometimes you got to grind.
"You're definitely not working with a full tank after throwing that many pitches in the first inning, but when the guys kept putting the pressure and getting runs, you just try to hang around and try to give them some innings."
And still, he marched on.
His crusade of tireless resolve ended after six innings. The big right-hander surrendered four runs (three earned) on seven hits while sending five batters back to the dugout on strikeouts on his way to picking up his 12th win, tying him for tops in the Majors.
The win was his first in his last four starts at home. He has won eight of his last 10 decisions.
"He maintained his stuff and pitched six important innings for us," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He kept us in the game. He didn't let it unravel in the first inning, got a couple big outs and kept it reasonable.
"After 40-something pitches, it takes a lot out of you. For him to regroup and keep going and continue to make pitches was very important."
The Angels slashed the deficit to 3-2 after a Guerrero groundout plated Willits in the first and Willits sent Garret Anderson home on a single in the second. The Rangers tacked on another run in the top of the third with an RBI single by Frank Catalanotto to score Sammy Sosa, who crushed a leadoff triple, his first three-bagger of the season, giving Texas a 4-2 advantage.
The Halos pulled ahead in the bottom of the inning. Casey Kotchman, making amends for his throwing error trying to get a force at home in the first, lined a single to right field to score Orlando Cabrera and trim the opponent's lead to 4-3. Maicer Izturis matched Kotchman, plating Anderson with his own RBI single, and Willits followed with a bases-loaded walk to score Anderson, putting the Halos up, 5-4.
An RBI double by Molina in the fifth and an RBI single by Guerrero in the sixth tacked on two more insurance runs before Lackey conceded his post to Justin Speier in the seventh.
Speier, making his first appearance since an April 30 outing against Kansas City after suffering a lengthy bout with an intestinal virus, struck out the side on 13 pitches before leaving in the eighth. Scot Shields and Dustin Moseley followed Speier, pitching one inning each to close out the contest.
"I'm very thankful to God that I'm able to get back out there and do my job," Speier said. "It was huge. That was 2 1/2 months of frustration being vented in one outing. I felt great. It's just nice to get back out there and help the team win.
"This outing rates as probably one of my more special outings of my career, just for being off for so long and then coming back. I felt like a rookie the last two days waiting to get back out there."
Larry Santana is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.