Since his season-opening stint on the disabled list, John Lackey has been dominant, easily regaining the form that made him a candidate for the AL Cy Young award last year.
Lackey will look to win his fourth straight start against the worst offense in baseball on Monday, as his Los Angeles Angels visit Washington for the first time in more than 36 years to open a three-game set against the Nationals.
After winning 19 games last year and compiling a career-best 3.01 ERA while leading the Angels to the AL West title, Lackey missed the start of this season with a right triceps strain.
Since his 2008 debut on May 14, however, Lackey (4-1, 1.73 ERA) has pitched at least seven innings in each start while allowing just one earned run in five of his seven outings, as Los Angeles (46-30) again sits atop the West.
“That was a terrific performance,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia told his team’s official Web site. “That’s one of the best efforts we’ve seen from John, and he’s been consistent all year.”
He’ll hope to shut down a Washington lineup that ranks last in the majors in both runs (282) and batting average (.239). The Nationals (30-47) have lost five of their last six games, scoring three or fewer runs in each defeat, including Sunday’s 5-3 loss to Texas.
The Angels, meanwhile, are coming off a three-game sweep at Philadelphia, which leads last-place Washington by 12 games in the NL East.
Los Angeles - the best road team in baseball at 24-12 - allowed the Phillies just five runs in the series, holding the NL’s second-highest scoring offense to only six hits in Sunday’s 3-2 win.
Francisco Rodriguez pitched two more scoreless innings in the series, picking up a pair of saves to rebound from just his second blown save of the season Wednesday against the Mets. Rodriguez leads the majors with 30 saves.
“We beat a real good team by pitching well,” Scioscia said. “The way we pitched in this series was just lights out. We got three in the end.”
Right fielder Vladimir Guerrero also extended his hitting streak to 13 games by going 6-for-12 with three home runs against the Phillies. Guerrero, who is hitting .442 with six homers during his streak, played his first eight seasons with the Nationals’ franchise in Montreal.
He’s raised his average from .250 to .289, still well below his career mark of .323.
No Angels hitter has faced Washington right-hander Jason Bergmann, who will look to avoid losing his fifth straight start. Bergmann (1-5, 5.03) had thrown 20 consecutive scoreless innings before his current skid, but he’s allowed 21 runs in 21 2-3 innings in his last four starts.
The last time the Angels played in the nation’s capital, they beat the Washington Senators 4-3 on Aug. 15, 1971 - the year before the Senators moved to Texas and became the Rangers.
The Nationals took two of three from the Angels in June 2005 in the teams’ only series since Washington’s franchise relocated from Montreal before that season.
Lackey faced the Expos once, allowing four runs in six innings in June 2003, but no current Nationals player was in the lineup.