Lackey takes over AL ERA lead in Angels’ 2-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—The Los Angeles Angels can start planning their trip to Boston and John Lackey can start thinking of where he’d like to keep his award, if he ends up winning it, for the league’s top earned-run average.

Lackey took over the American League lead in ERA, Vladimir Guerrero homered and drove in two runs and the Angels beat the Oakland Athletics 2-0 on Friday night. With no chance left to start the postseason at home, the Angels stopped their three-game losing streak.

“We faced a tough pitcher and we were able to manufacture a run in the first,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “Vlad gave us a home run but some guys are still searching at the plate. We need to keep guys sharp. These guys still need to play.”

Mark Ellis had two hits for the A’s, who lost their fourth in a row, and their fifth straight home game.

“It was just a good pitcher’s night,” A’s manager Bob Geren said. “A well-pitched game.”

Lackey (19-9) allowed two hits in seven innings, struck out two and walked none, lowering his ERA to 3.01, just ahead of Cleveland’s Fausto Carmona (3.06) and Oakland’s Dan Haren (3.07). He improved to 12-3 with a 2.84 ERA against the A’s and faced 23 hitters, two over the minimum. He retired his final 15 batters.

“I got some good feeling and I’ll be rested and ready to go,” Lackey said.

Justin Speier and Francisco Rodriguez completed the three-hitter, with Rodriguez getting three outs for his 39th save in 44 chances.

“We have a lot of confidence in John and when he takes the ball he has high expectations,” Scioscia said. “You want to always keep your edge. He pitched a terrific game when we clinched it and he followed that with another outstanding performance..”

The Angels will open the playoffs Wednesday or Thursday at Boston, with Cleveland hosting the New York Yankees in the other AL series. The Red Sox and Indians clinched home field because they have tiebreaker advantages over the Angels, who are just 13-13 in September.

“We’re going to have to play there anyway, so why not now?” Lackey said. “I know I’ll be there. I’ll show up. We do have some guys who could use an extra day off though.”

The Angels were 2-5 against the Red Sox in Boston and took two of three against in Anaheim.

“We held our own in their park,” Scioscia said. “They’re a dynamic offensive club with a terrific pitching staff. We have the confidence that we can play with them, or anyone else in our league. For us, it’s more in-house. It’s just getting into our game.”

Haren (15-9) allowed two runs—one earned—and three hits in six innings, struck out six and walked two.

“I knew Lack and I were right there,” said Haren, who had a 1.58 ERA on June 9 and then watched it grow over the next 19 starts—until Friday. “I had good stuff. I could have gone another inning. The pitches to Vlad weren’t perfect, but they were good.”

Chone Figgins walked to lead off the game, stole second, went to third on catcher Kurt Suzuki’s throwing error and scored on Guerrero’s fly to deep center.

“You have to keep working,” Figgins said. “I’m hitting balls good and I’m still getting on base.”

Guerrero homered in the fourth and left after a pitch by Andrew Brown hit him in the eighth.

Notes

The Angels are hopeful that OF Gary Matthews Jr. (irritated left knee) will play in one of the two remaining games. … Ellis was presented with the team’s Jim “Catfish” Hunter Award before the game, in honor of the late Hall of Fame pitcher. … Haren joined Hunter (1972) and Vida Blue (1971) as the only A’s pitchers who did not allow more than five runs in any start in a season. … Lackey is 10-1 against the AL West and 11-3 in his last 14 road starts. … Angels OF Juan Rivera went 2-for-3 and is now hitting a season-high .282 in his 13th game of the season. … Guerrero was hit by a pitch for the second straight game.

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