The Angels (54-35) are tied with the Boston Red Sox for the best record in baseball following a 2-1 victory in Friday night’s series opener - their eighth win in 11 games against the Rangers (38-51) this season.
Lackey (11-5, 2.91 ERA) has recorded two of those wins, improving to 8-8 with a 5.24 ERA in 21 career starts against the Rangers. If the Abilene, Texas native can win again Saturday, he would become the third pitcher this season to reach 12 victories along with Boston’s Josh Beckett and Cleveland’s C.C. Sabathia.
Sabathia is scheduled to face Kansas City on Saturday night.
Lackey has had his troubles against Rangers slugger Mark Teixeira, who is a .429 (18-for-42) career hitter versus the right-hander. The 18 hits are the first baseman’s most versus any pitcher.
Teixeira, who had been on the disabled list since June 9 with a strained quadriceps, returned Friday and had a ground-rule double and a walk. He is batting .302 with 12 home runs and 41 RBIs in 62 games this season.
“We went toe-to-toe,” said Lackey, whose 11 strikeouts tied a career high. “He pitched good and I had it going on a little bit.”
While Lackey is 7-2 on the road, he has lost his two home decisions to fall to 4-3 with a 3.57 ERA in eight Angel Stadium starts.
The Rangers, meanwhile, hope Loe (5-6, 5.36) can continue to baffle hitters and continue the longest winning streak of his career. The right-hander is 4-0 with a 1.60 ERA in his last five starts.
He threw six scoreless innings during the Rangers’ 4-3, 10-inning home win over the Baltimore Orioles on July 6, scattering five hits and three walks.
“I’m trying to stay with my approach using offspeed pitches,” Loe told the Rangers’ official Web site. “My sinker was getting better throughout the game.”
Loe is 2-4 with a 5.75 ERA in 10 appearances, including six starts, against Los Angeles.
He’ll face a tough challenge, as the Angels have now won eight of their last nine home meetings with Texas. Casey Kotchman’s single plated former Rangers center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning Friday, as the Angels extended their lead to three games over Seattle atop the AL West.
“When you’re in a pennant race, you need as many wins as you can get,” Kotchman said. “It’s a big lift for the team to get a ‘W’ in a tight ballgame.”
Vladimir Guerrero went 2-for-4 Friday to raise his career batting average to .424 against Texas. Matthews, who played for the Rangers from 2004-06, is hitting .405 (15-for-37) against them this season after going 2-for-3 Friday.