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08/31/08 9:12 PM ET
Lackey stumbles as Angels fall in finale
Hurler tagged for four runs; Rivera posts first tallies with blast
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- After coming from behind for three straight wins over the Rangers, the Angels looked like they would make it a fourth consecutive come-from-behind win Sunday when they had runners in scoring position in the last three innings of the game. But the Angels couldn't make the most of their opportunities, as they went just 1-for-5 with RISP late in the game in their 4-3 loss to the Rangers at Angel Stadium. "The guys battled, but we couldn't get that hit late with some guys in scoring position," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We just couldn't score late that could have gotten us that game." The Angels came close to sweeping the Rangers, but fell short when they scored one run in the eighth inning on a broken-bat, two-out RBI single by Mark Teixeira before Juan Rivera grounded into a fielder's choice to ruin their chance for a comeback bid. They had their chance again in the ninth with a runner on second base, but Sean Rodriguez grounded out to second on a check swing to end the game. It was an anticlimactic ending to a strange game that saw Scioscia, Rangers manager Ron Washington and Rangers catcher Gerald Laird get ejected by home-plate umpire Bill Hohn. Scioscia was the first casualty, as he was tossed after arguing from the dugout about a pitch thrown by right-hander John Lackey to Hank Blalock that was ruled a ball in the fifth inning. "It was an interesting day out there," Scioscia said. "We certainly had our opinions on some calls. I'm sure the other side did, too. That's just part of baseball." On the other side, Washington and Laird were also tossed for arguing balls and strikes -- as Washington was ejected in the seventh after Marlon Byrd was called out on strikes and Laird was tossed after a called third strike in the eighth. "All I said was he needed to ask for help," Washington said. "He told me he had ejected Mike Scioscia for arguing balls and strikes. I said that wasn't about balls and strikes. He had eject-itis today." Lackey, though, didn't blame Hohn's strike zone for the high pitch count (103) that forced him out of the game after five innings. In all, Lackey allowed four runs on nine hits while striking out five and walking one. "On my end, I don't think the strike zone affected me too much," said Lackey, who lost for the first time since July 5, a span of 10 starts. "I made some pretty good pitches, but I made a couple of pitches that left the yard." Lackey was hurt early by the long ball, as he allowed a solo home run by Josh Hamilton in the first inning and a two-run homer by Byrd in the second to put the Angels in a 3-0 hole. But Scioscia felt that both balls weren't hit especially hard, but instead were aided by the fact that the ball carries in day games at Angel Stadium. "Hamilton and Marlon Byrd are strong, but in the daytime the ball moves pretty well here," Scioscia said. "Hamilton got the ball high, and I think the wind helped it a little bit. The one Marlon Byrd hit wouldn't have gone out in a night game, but that's the elements. It's not here nor there." It was the two-run homer by Byrd that also surprised Lackey, as he didn't think Byrd got all of the 83-mph slider. "I was surprised the ball Byrd hit got of the yard," Lackey said. "At night, that's probably a flyout." But the Angels were also aided by the long ball in the second inning, with a two-run homer by Juan Rivera off Rangers right-hander Kevin Millwood. Rivera's homer, his first since Aug. 18, came on a 0-1 fastball and cleared the Angels' bullpen in left field. But it was all the Angels could muster off Millwood, who allowed just five hits and two runs over 6 2/3 innings while striking out seven and walking none. "Millwood is always tough," Scioscia said. "He knows what he's doing out there. He used his fastball out there today." With the Angels' loss, their lead over the Rangers in the American League West is 17 games and their magic number remains at nine. Lackey said Los Angeles' goal down the stretch is just to avoid injuries while waiting for players such as Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar to get well. "We need to get healthy," Lackey said. "We need to be at full strength when it comes playoff time."
Rhett Bollinger is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.