Lackey is shaky, but it’s a start
John Lackey stuck around for more than two pitches Monday night. In fact, he extended his pitch count to 82 against the Seattle Mariners, a marked improvement from Saturday’s abbreviated start in Texas, when he was ejected after two fastballs, one that went behind Ian Kinsler’s head and one that hit Kinsler in the ribs.
Other than that, there wasn’t much for the Angels’ ace to be too thrilled about Monday. The right-hander was mediocre by his standards, allowing five runs -- four earned -- and seven hits in five innings of a 10-6 victory that snapped the Angels’ three-game losing streak.
But it was a start, a legitimate one compared to Saturday’s Texas two-pitch, and after he missed the first six weeks of the season because of a forearm strain, it moved Lackey and the injury-plagued Angels another step toward becoming whole again.
“His command was not as sharp or as fine as it will be, but he spun the ball well and made some good pitches at times,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “He gave us a chance to win. It was a good first outing, hopefully a steppingstone.”
Lackey said he felt stronger as the game went on and was especially encouraged by his last pitch of the night, a down-and-away fastball that struck out Wladimir Balentien to end the fifth.
“That was a well-located pitch, and that’s a good sign for me,” Lackey said. “That’s a pitch that gets elevated and creeps back over the plate when I get tired.”
The Angels offense, which had no extra-base hits in losses Saturday and Sunday in Texas, came alive Monday night in Safeco Field, erasing a 4-1 deficit by scoring five runs in the fifth inning.
The Angels had 15 hits, including two home runs by first baseman Kendry Morales -- his first multi-homer game -- one homer by Juan Rivera, and four doubles.
And a double dash of defense from center fielder Torii Hunter helped keep the Angels out of trouble in the eighth and ninth innings.
With two on and one out in the eighth, Kenji Johjima hit a flare to the gap in left-center, where Hunter made a running, lunging catch, his momentum carrying him to the ground. Jose Arredondo got Franklin Gutierrez to pop to first, ending the inning.
With one on in the ninth, Hunter raced to the wall to flag down Jose Lopez’s long drive to end the game.
Lackey, who gave up a solo home run to Russell Branyan in the fourth, struck out three and walked none, and if not for a throwing error by catcher Mike Napoli in the second inning, Lackey would have given up only three runs.
With runners on second and third and one out, No. 9 hitter Ronny Cedeno dropped a bunt in front of the plate. Napoli had plenty of time to get Cedeno, but his throw to first sailed high over Morales’ head, allowing two runs to score.
That gave Seattle a 3-0 lead, which the Angels trimmed to 3-1 when Chone Figgins, who was three for 30 lifetime against Seattle starter Jarrod Washburn, hit a run-scoring double off the left-hander in the third inning.
Branyan’s homer gave the Mariners a 4-1 lead in the fourth, but Rivera sparked the fifth-inning rally with a one-out solo home run to left field.
Hunter, a .220 career hitter in 50 at-bats against Washburn, followed Morales’ single, Howie Kendrick’s double and Erick Aybar’s RBI infield single with a three-run double to right-center, giving the Angels a 6-4 lead.
A two-out RBI single by Ken Griffey Jr. pulled Seattle to within 6-5 in the bottom of the fifth, but Rivera singled off reliever Brandon Morrow in the sixth, and Morales drove a two-run home run, his seventh of the season, to straightaway center for an 8-5 lead.
Morales’ second homer of the night, a solo shot off reliever Denny Stark in the eighth, gave the Angels 9-6 lead, and the Angels added another run on Kendrick’s RBI single in the ninth.
“As he gets comfortable, you can see the potential he has,” Scioscia said of Morales, who is hitting .287 with eight homers and 26 runs batted in. “For a guy who’s getting his first crack at playing every day and hitting in the middle of the lineup, he’s doing a terrific job.”