ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—John Lackey won the seventh game of the World Series, so it’s easy for people to forget that he’s only in his first full season in the big leagues—and still learning.
“A pitcher can only do so much,” Lackey said. “You can’t go up there and score runs for yourself, and you’ve got to have good defense behind you. So all three parts of the game have to be working as one. I have to give a lot of the credit to the defense. They made some nice plays for me, and that makes it a lot easier.”
Lackey (8-11) allowed seven hits, including Bobby Higginson’s 10th home run of the season leading off the ninth. The homer came on Lackey’s 93rd and last pitch. It was the only baserunner that advanced past second base against the right-hander, who struck out seven and walked one in eight-plus innings. It was his first win in six starts since July 13.
Troy Percival closed it out for his 26th save in 27 chances.
“When you see a guy give an effort like Lackey did tonight, It’s always fun to be able to go out there and finish it for him,” Percival said. “I really feel confident when I go out there, and there’s no doubt in my mind that I’m going to get the job done when I do.”
Bengie Molina drove in two runs, helping the Angels beat Detroit for the ninth straight time. The Tigers (31-89) have only one more win than the 1962 Mets had after 120 games, when manager Casey Stengel’s first-year expansion team finished with the worst record in baseball history at 40-120.
“I know what our record is. It’s terrible. But I don’t think anybody envisioned it quite like this,” rookie manager Alan Trammell said. “If we had a few more wins, the only thing that would make it better for us is that we wouldn’t be going for the all-time worst record—which is the way people talk about our club.”
Before third baseman Eric Munson was placed on the disabled list Thursday, the Tigers had 11 rookies on their 25-man roster—eight of them pitchers.
“That’s the price you’ve got to pay,” said Dimtri Young, the Tigers’ only All-Star representative. “Not every team is going to have that Cinderella all-rookie team that’s going to tear up the American League. It would be nice, but this is a learning experience. People are going to go home this offseason and work hard and know what they have to do for next year, so they won’t go through the same thing … as this year.”
Nate Cornejo (5-12) lost for the 10th time in 12 decisions over his last 17 starts. He allowed two runs and six hits in seven innings and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fifth, striking out Scott Spiezio after an intentional walk to Garret Anderson and retiring Jeff DaVanon on a groundout.
“I was glad about how I stepped up and got out of that inning,” Cornejo said. “The whole game, except for that first inning, I was challenging the hitters. I was just throwing the ball over the plate and trying to make them swing the bat and pound the ball on the ground.”
Spiezio, who hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the first inning, led off the fourth with a double and scored when Molina grounded into a force play. Molina added an RBI single in the eighth against Chris Mears for his 60th RBI.
Lackey induced two double-play grounders. One of them was the result of interference on Shane Halter, who was running on the pitch when Brandon Inge hit a grounder up the middle—and elbowed second baseman Adam Kennedy out ofthe way as Kennedy made a late relay throw to first base.
The game took just 2 hours, 16 minutes. … Young doubled with one out in the Detroit seventh, but Carlos Pena and Craig Monroe struck out. … Trammell said he was taking RHP Matthew Roney out of the rotation and putting him in the bullpen after six straight losses by the rookie. The top candidates to start next Tuesday are Shane Loux and Steve Sparks. … Anaheim SS David Eckstein was back in the lineup after missing three games because of tightnessin his right hamstring.