ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- John Lackey would have needed to pitch a
no-hitter to outdo his previous outing. He wasn't that far off.
Lackey threw his second consecutive shutout Friday night with a
five-hitter and the Los Angeles Angels picked up where they left
off before the All-Star break with a 4-0 victory over the Tampa Bay
Devil Rays on Friday night.
"Once he gets on one of his rolls he can be dynamite -- which he
is right now," said Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon, who returned to
Anaheim for the first time since ending a 31-year association with
the Angels' organization on Nov. 15 to take the Devil Rays job.
"He's on top of his game."
Vladimir Guerrero was 3-for-4 with a tiebreaking home run for
the two-time defending AL West champions. The Angels were nine
games under .500 and a season-worst seven games out of first place
on June 30, but are 9-1 since then and only 2½ games behind the
division leaders. The shutout was their fourth in nine games, one
more than they had through their first 80 contests.
Lackey (8-5) won his fourth straight start and lowered his ERA
to 2.68, second-best in the AL behind Francisco Liriano's 2.12 mark
for Minnesota. It was the fifth shutout and eighth complete game in
135 career starts for the right-hander, who entered with a major
league-best .195 opponents batting average.
It's the third time Lackey has won four straight decisions
during his five-year career, and the first time he's accomplished
it in a span of fewer than seven starts.
"I'm pretty confident right now and I like my chances when I go
out there," said Lackey, who got Jorge Cantu to ground into a
game-ending double play with two on. "My stuff's been good and
I've been able to locate pretty much everything. I used my breaking
pitches a little more tonight than I did in Oakland, and my cutter
was pretty good."
Lackey walked two and tied a career high with 10 strikeouts,
including all three batters in the fourth. He became the first
Angels pitcher to pitch back-to-back shutouts since Mark Langston
did it in June 1992, and first on the staff to strike out at least
10 in three straight outings since Langston in June 1990.
"I don't go looking for strikeouts unless there's a runner on
third with one out or something like that," Lackey said. "Usually
when I get to two strikes, I might take one shot at it and then
just try to get the guy out."
The lanky Texan extended his scoreless streak to 27 innings,
including the one-hit shutout at Oakland last Friday in which he
retired his final 27 batters after giving up a leadoff double to
Lackey started this one by walking Julio Lugo and worked with
runners on base in each of the first three innings. But center
fielder Chone Figgins robbed Cantu of extra bases in the first with
a diving catch in left-center, and Lackey induced double-play
grounders by Jonny Gomes and Damon Hollins in the second and third
"Usually when a guy hits an off-speed pitch, it usually has
backspin on it. So the ball just kind of hung up there a little bit
and I had a chance to get a glove under it," Figgins said of his
run-saving circus catch. "But that was a tough one."
The Devil Rays got only one runner as far as third base. That
was in the sixth, when Lugo beat out an infield single, and stole
second and third with Carl Crawford at the plate. But Crawford
grounded out to second base with the infield playing in, and Lackey
struck out Rocco Baldelli for the third straight time.
"I thought we had a chance to get him early. But once he
settled down, it was pretty much over. I could tell by the look on
his face and the down-angle fastball," Maddon said.
Jae Seo (0-3) allowed two runs and seven hits over six innings
in his first career appearance against the Angels. It was the
right-hander's third start for the Devil Rays since his June 27
trade from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Guerrero, who homered in Tuesday's All-Star game, led off the
sixth inning with his 19th of the regular season. It left him one
RBI short of 1,000 for his career.
Maddon has continued his practice of putting a "thought
for the day" at the bottom of each day's lineup card. For his
return to Angel Stadium, he wrote: "Leaders don't create followers
-- they create more leaders." ... Lackey threw 107 pitches, two
fewer than in his one-hitter. ... Tampa Bay All-Star LHP Scott
Kazmir, scheduled to pitch on Saturday, was moved back to Tuesday
because of a stiff neck. James Shields was bumped up a day to make