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Angels, Lackey Pull No Strings

Times Staff Writer

John Lackey hadn’t given up a run in 22 days, and 26 2/3 innings.

“Halfway to Hershiser,” someone told Angels Manager Mike Scioscia before Wednesday’s game.

“Sounds like a sitcom,” Scioscia said.

No joke -- that’s about how far Lackey got. The Cleveland Indians ended his streak of consecutive scoreless innings at 31, five shy of the Angels’ franchise record and 28 shy of Orel Hershiser’s major league record. The Indians ended the Angels’ eight-game winning streak too, routing Lackey for five runs in the fifth inning and rolling to a 6-4 victory.

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“I told you 100 times, I couldn’t care less about the scoreless streak,” Lackey said. “We’re trying to win.”

The Angels slipped back into third place in the American League West, but they’re 13-2 in July and 1 1/2 games out of first.

“We’re definitely in the race,” Lackey said. “The other teams in the division look at what we do. We’ve won the last couple years.”

One bad inning beat the Angels on Wednesday, and even then they almost won. They got 13 hits, including three each from Orlando Cabrera and Vladimir Guerrero.

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Juan Rivera hit his 14th home run and eighth in 12 days, raising the question of how many he might have hit had the Angels played him every day, as promised.

“I don’t know,” Rivera said. “Talk to you in September.”

In the sixth inning, with two on and two out, Chone Figgins poked a line drive down the right-field line. Casey Blake saved the day with a diving catch, an all-out effort that Scioscia said could have resulted in an inside-the-park home run had Blake missed.

“My plan was to dive for it,” Blake said, “and, if I didn’t catch it, at least knock it down and pounce on it, like a tiger or like a puma, and maybe throw the guy out at home.”

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The catch preserved the victory for Paul Byrd, who won 12 games for the Angels last season. Byrd (7-6) gave up three runs and 10 hits in six innings.

Lackey had thrown a one-hit shutout and a five-hit shutout in his previous two starts, but he failed to survive five innings in this one. He gave up 10 hits, a season high. He walked five, tied for a season high. He gave up five runs in an inning, tied for a season high.

He threw 107 pitches, same as his previous start -- but last time in nine innings, this time in 4 2/3 innings.

He struck out three in the first inning and two more in the second, but by that time he had walked two and made 45 pitches. He could not command his pitches with precision, but the scoreless streak remained alive through the first four innings.

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He struck out Travis Hafner to start the fifth. But Victor Martinez walked and Ben Broussard homered, ending the scoreless streak and tying the score, 2-2. Ronnie Belliard hit an infield single, Todd Hollandsworth cued an opposite-field double inside the third base line, and Jhonny Peralta flared a two-run single over the head of first baseman Kendry Morales. One out later, Joe Inglett capped the rally with a run-scoring double.

Lackey (8-6) lost for the first time since June 20, and his earned-run average rose to a still-fine 2.93.

“He’s a good pitcher,” Blake said. “He’s pretty confident on the mound. He doesn’t expect to get hit. I think he’s pretty surprised when he gets hit. He looks at guys as they run down to first base.”

So the streak was over, and what about the pressure that went with it? The guy who won Game 7 of the World Series laughed at the question.

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“Pressure,” Lackey said, “has never been an issue with me.”


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