KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)—Paltry run support is something John Lackey is learning to live with.
Once again Monday night, the Los Angeles Angels’ gave the big right-hander little to work with, but he made it stand up. Vladimir Guerrero doubled home two runs in the first inning and Lackey (4-2) pitched into the seventh, leading the Angels to a 3-1 victory over Kansas City.
The Angels have only scored more than four runs for him in his six starts.
“That’s kind of the way it’s been for me the last couple of years,” he said. “I’ve got to pitch pretty good to win.”
Against the Royals, Lackey went 6 1-3 innings, giving up eight hits and one run. He struck out seven and walked only one. He also got a bit lucky when Ross Gload hit a sharp line drive up the middle in the fourth. The ball struck Lackey’s left foot and bounced straight to first baseman Robb Quinlan, who picked up the ball and made the tag.
“John had a little bit of a second wind after he got hit in the foot,” said manager Mike Scioscia. “It was a little bit sore. He got a little second wind, but he had to work hard to get out of the sixth.”
Aided by one of the Angels’ three double plays, Lackey retired the Royals in the third, fourth and fifth innings on 32 pitches. In the sixth, he had runners at first and third, but struck out Gload to end the inning.
Francisco Rodriguez pitched the ninth for his ninth save in 10 chances as the AL West leaders improved to 3-1 on this seven-game road trip to Chicago and Kansas City.
Poise under pressure has become a hallmark of Lackey, Scioscia said.
“I think that’s the growth we’ve seen in John since he came up. He gets the next pitch much better. The score doesn’t affect him. He knows the only thing he can control is his making a pitch. I think as time goes on, he’s gotten a lot more comfortable with that.”
Reggie Willits and Orlando Cabrera hit one-out singles off Odalis Perez (2-3) in the first and Guerrero, who has 23 RBIs in 24 games, doubled high off the wall in straightaway center, missing a homer by about 18 inches.
The Royals’ league-worst record dropped to 8-18.
“It’s my job to figure it out,” said manager Buddy Bell. “And I have not done a very good job of it. I’m not taking sole responsibility, but I’m certainly taking my share of it.”
Chone Figgins, who was playing his first game since breaking two fingers in spring training, drove in the Angels’ third run in his second at-bat and also started a nifty double play in the sixth.
“That was huge for me. I had some big guys coming up,” said Lackey. “He’s the guy who makes things happen for us. I’m glad to have him back. And he’s pretty excited to be back. He was pretty bummed being in the dugout and in the clubhouse at the beginning of the season.”
Perez went six innings, giving up three runs on 10 hits and a walk.
Ryan Shealy, hitting .096 and on an 0-for-9 streak, hit Lackey’s 2-0 pitch for an RBI double in the second.
Then he was thrown out at the plate while trying to score from second on Tony Pena Jr.’s single. Shealy was immediately replaced at first by Gload, and the Royals said later he had a tight left hamstring.
Alex Gordon led off the seventh with a single just under the glove of Willits in left field and then, facing reliever Justin Speier, Emil Brown pounded a one-out bouncer in front of the plate and catcher Mike Napoli was charged with an error when he failed to pick up the ball cleanly.
After Pena moved the runners to second and third, Speier struck out David DeJesus for the third out.
It was the Angels’ third victory in four outings on this seven-game road trip, raising the AL West leaders’ record away from home to 4-8 after starting 1-7 on their first trip of the year.
Although the Royals were only 8-18 this April, it was still an improvement over the past two seasons when they went 6-18 and 5-17.
The Royals are starting their longest homestand of the season, 10 games in 11 days. … Guerrero also doubled in the fifth but was out trying for a triple.