Lackey's return is spoiled

Times Staff Writer

All those good vibes generated by John Lackey's superb 2008 debut disappeared in the span of four batters -- and all of 15 Scot Shields pitches -- in the eighth inning Wednesday night.

Singles by Juan Uribe and Orlando Cabrera, an Erick Aybar throwing error that allowed the runners to advance, and an intentional walk to A.J. Pierzynski set the stage for Carlos Quentin, whose tie-breaking grand slam led the Chicago White Sox to a 6-1 victory.

Wasted was a seven-inning, one-run, six-hit, four-strikeout effort by Lackey, the ace right-hander who spent the first six weeks of the season on the disabled list because of a triceps strain.

"Lackey pitched a good game," said Shields, who gave up four earned runs -- total -- in 16 2/3 innings of his first 16 games this season. "For me to not even get an out and give up four runs . . . that hurts inside."

Lackey, who was 19-9 with an American League-leading 3.01 earned-run average last season, got off to a rough start when he gave up singles to the first three batters, Quentin's driving in Cabrera for a 1-0 lead.

But Lackey got Jermaine Dye to ground into a double play and retired 15 of the next 17 batters before running into trouble in the seventh, an inning that ended with Nick Swisher's fly to center field with runners on second and third.

Though his fastball wasn't as crisp as he'd like, Lackey had excellent command of his curve and walked only one. He threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of 26 batters.

"I felt pretty good," Lackey said. "I was able to throw my off-speed stuff for strikes. My fastball is not all the way back, but this was a good start."

The Angels tied the score in the fifth inning when Maicer Izturis walked, stole second, took third on Robb Quinlan's single and scored on Mike Napoli's fly to left field.

With Lackey's pitch count at 99 -- 44 of them came in the first two innings -- Manager Mike Scioscia summoned Shields, who had a 2-0 record and 2.16 ERA, for the eighth inning.

Uribe singled and Cabrera, after failing on two bunt tries, grounded a ball that Aybar gloved deep in the shortstop hole.

Aybar, perhaps emboldened by the spectacular plays he has made, had no chance to throw out Cabrera, but he made an off-balance throw that sailed over first baseman Casey Kotchman's head, allowing both runners to advance.

"It was an aggressive mistake," Scioscia said. "He's made a lot of great plays, and I've seen him throw some balls like that on the money. That one didn't quite get done."

Instead of pitching to Pierzynski with a chance for a double play, the White Sox catcher was walked intentionally. Quentin then lined a 2-and-0 fastball over the left-center field wall for his first career grand slam and a 5-1 lead.

"I felt good; I just gave up a pretty good poke for a granny," Shields said. "I couldn't go 3-0 with the bases loaded in a tie game. I had to give him something to hit. It wasn't a bad pitch, it was down in the zone, but I tip my hat to him. He didn't miss it."

The Angels managed only the one run and four hits in seven innings against starter Jose Contreras, who got the win, and they've scored two runs or less in four of their last six games.

"We haven't swung the bats the way we need to for the last 10 days," Scioscia said. "There's a lot of pressure on our pitchers. We've held our heads above water, but at some point you've got to start getting that consistent offense."

The addition of Lackey should give the Angels more consistent starting pitching.

Though the Angels were 4-4 in the eight games started by Lackey's replacements, the wins were not built on starting pitching. Dustin Moseley and Nick Adenhart combined for a 7.85 ERA in the eight games, pitching into the sixth inning only twice.

"No one's happy when you lose, but seeing the way John pitched is going to give us a lift, no doubt," Scioscia said.


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