Percival earned his 300th career save and Lackey allowed three hits over 8 1-3 innings, leading Anaheim to a 2-0 victory over the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night.
They also collaborated in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series, with Lackey getting the win and Percival closing it out to secure the Angels’ first championship.
“It’s just an honor to be involved in this game with him getting to 300,” Lackey said. “He’s such a professional and such a great guy to play with. I have no idea how many of my games he’s closed out, but most of the time when he comes in, it’s pretty much over.”
Percival became the 18th member of the 300-save club, striking out Alfonso Soriano and getting Mark Teixeira to ground out to end the game. The right-hander was hugged by first baseman Darin Erstad, and then catcher Bengie Molina before the entire team congratulated him near the mound.
“All of us know it is a pretty good milestone—I mean, only 18 people have done it thus far,” Percival said. “I was out there when my teammates needed me 300 times, and I’m real proud of that. It was good to get it out of the way so that we could just concentrate on winning ballgames.”
As he walked off the field, Percival waved to the crowd just before walking into the dugout. A video montage of his career highlights was also played on the scoreboard.
Once inside the clubhouse, he was toasted by his teammates with cups of beer instead of the usual champagne that’s brought out for such an occasion.
“To the greatest closer we know, without question,” injured pitcher Jarrod Washburn said.
Moments later, Percival posed for a group picture holding a baseball with “300” on it. Surrounding him were Lackey, Washburn and the rest of the relievers. Percival then looked at setup man Francisco Rodriguez and handed him the ball.
“Frankie, you definitely have to get in here for this one, because I’m going to be back here for your 300th,” Percival said.
Despite his second save in two nights, Percival’s milestone required a long wait. It was only his fourth opportunity to close a game since June 1. He spent two weeks on the disabled list because of inflammation in his elbow.
The four-time All-Star recorded his first big league save on July 14, 1995, at Detroit. He had a career-high 42 in 1998 and became the Angels career saves leader on June 20, 1999, when he eclipsed Bryan Harvey’s mark of 126.
“Early in my career, 300 saves was the only goal I had—if I could be around long enough to get it,” Percival said. “I thought to myself, if I could get 300, I’d feel like I’d accomplished something—especially knowing that Goose Gossage, one of my favorite players of all time, had over 300. But I hadn’t thought about it again until this year.”
Lackey (9-9) won for the fifth time in six decisions, tying a season high with seven strikeouts, walking one and retiring 15 of his last 16 batters after losing his other two starts against Texas this season.
“It was kind of a mixed feeling after the eighth,” he said. “I knew Percy was at 299, so I wanted to give him an opportunity at 300. But I also felt good and I thought I could finish it. I left it in his hands, and he told me to go back out there.”
The victory was Lackey’s third in eight career decisions against the Rangers — including his first major league shutout, and the game that clinched a wild-card berth for the Angels two years ago.
Lackey retired his first nine batters before giving up a leadoff single in the fourth to Michael Young. Texas’ only other hits were a single by Teixeira and a leadoff double by Gary Matthews Jr. in the fifth.
Kenny Rogers (13-4), starting on the 10th anniversary of his perfect game against the Angels, allowed two runs—one earned—and nine hits over seven-plus innings. The All-Star left-hander struck out one and walked none.
“It was just a terrible night for us,” Texas’ Laynce Nix said. “Lackey had good command, and we just weren’t patient enough to get our pitch. We have to have a better approach against a guy like that and make adjustments. When we have Kenny pitching for us, he deserves better.”
The loss reduced the Rangers’ lead in the AL West to a half-game over Oakland and three over the third-place Angels.
Anaheim opened the scoring in the second when All-Star third baseman Hank Blalock fielded Molina’s routine grounder with plenty of time to get Erstad at the plate—and made a wide throw to Gerald Laird.
Angels center fielder Garret Anderson, who didn’t start the previous five games because of a strained groin, returned to the lineup as the DH and drove in Anaheim’s second run with a fielder’s choice grounder in the fifth.
Blalock has just 11 hits in his last 72 at-bats, and none in his last 17. … Lackey has walked no more than two batters in 18 of his 20 starts this season, and has given up fewer than three earned runs in seven of his last eight outings. … The Rangers were shut out in consecutive games for the second time this season. It also happened May 26-27 against the White Sox at Chicago.