Lackey sticks around for loss
This one was a delight for the second-guessers.
The talk shows and the message boards no doubt lighted up before the scoreboard did: Why did Mike Scioscia leave John Lackey in the game so long?
There’s no debate about the result. Lackey gave up consecutive triples to start the seventh inning, sending the Detroit Tigers on the way to a 5-3 victory over the Angels on Tuesday at Angel Stadium.
The Angels lost for the fifth time in six games, and they have lost three consecutive games for the first time since June 20-22. Their lead over the Texas Rangers in the American League West has been cut to four games.
If the Angels lose today, they would be swept at home for the first time this season -- and swept for the first time anywhere since the Rangers did it in Texas May 15-17.
“We’re fine,” said second baseman Howie Kendrick, whose three-run homer was the Angels’ lone hit in 10 at-bats with men in scoring position. “I don’t think there’s anything to press about.”
Lackey had pressed on through six innings on 113 pitches, never retiring the side in order, on a stuffy 82-degree evening. The score was tied, 3-3, and the Tigers had the top of the order due up.
“First and foremost, if a starter looks like he’s maintaining his stuff and pitching well, that’s going to carry a lot of weight,” Scioscia said. “If he was tired, it would have been a no-brainer [to pull him].
“I really felt John had enough to get through the seventh. If he does, it’s big to us.”
The Angels had right-hander Jason Bulger and left-hander Darren Oliver warming up, although Scioscia said he was hoping to hold both pitchers back for possible extra innings. He said he wanted Lackey to work the seventh, Kevin Jepsen the eighth and Brian Fuentes the ninth.
In the seventh, Oliver appeared to be a reasonable option. The Tigers had Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco coming up, and both men hit right-handers better than left-handers.
Granderson bats .286 against right-handers, .183 against left-handers, and had homered off right-handed Lackey in his previous at-bat.
On the other hand, Lackey had thrown at least 113 pitches in four of his previous six starts, and the Angels’ bullpen had pitched 20 innings over the previous four days.
“We’ve been using our bullpen a lot,” Scioscia said. “As John finished the sixth, I really thought he was throwing the ball well. It looked like he was maintaining his velocity and his delivery.”
Scioscia stuck with his ace.
Granderson crushed Lackey’s third pitch for a triple, high off the top of the wall in right-center field, so close to a home run that Detroit Manager Jim Leyland persuaded the umpires to check the video just to make sure.
Polanco poked the next pitch into the right-field corner for a triple, with Granderson scoring for a 4-3 Detroit lead. That was enough for Scioscia, and that was all for Lackey, after 117 pitches.
The Angels needed Bulger and Oliver to get out of the inning, with Bulger giving up the sacrifice fly to Miguel Cabrera that scored Polanco for a 5-3 Detroit lead.
Oliver faced Granderson in the eighth inning -- and struck him out.
Lackey (8-7) gave up five runs and a season-high 11 hits in six-plus innings. He gave up solo home runs to Granderson and Cabrera, the first homers he had given up in 29 innings.