OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—John Lackey’s fastball hung tough into the late innings, and that might be what he took most out of his fifth start back from the disabled list.
Lackey is still playing catch up—and he’s beginning to look like his old self again.
Maicer Izturis homered on the third pitch of the game to give Lackey an early lead and the Los Angeles Angels won their season-best sixth straight game with a 3-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Friday night.
“It feels good, definitely,” Lackey said. “When you miss as much time as I have you want to make every one count because you only have limited opportunities.”
Lackey, a 19-game winner last year, outpitched Joe Blanton in his fifth start of 2008 after beginning the year on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right triceps muscle. He ended a two-start winless stretch.
Vladimir Guerrero returned to the lineup and had two hits with an RBI single as the Angels snapped Oakland’s four-game winning streak and put the A’s the furthest out of first place they’ve been all year at 4 1/2 games back. Jeff Mathis also added a run-scoring single from the ninth hole for Los Angeles, which owns the best road record in baseball at 20-11. The Angels moved a season-high 14 games over .500 (38-24).
Lackey (2-1) took a shutout bid into the seventh inning but gave up a first-pitch homer to Jack Cust. Lackey struck out five in seven strong innings and didn’t walk a batter for the second time this year, allowing four hits and just the one run on Cust’s 10th homer of the season.
“Joe Blanton pitched well and is always tough on us,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “John Lackey matched him pitch for pitch and we were able to get a lead and hold on. John has really found his groove since he came off the disabled list. His stuff has always been sharp since he came back.”
Jose Arredondo pitched the eighth and Francisco Rodriguez picked up his majors-leading 25th save in 26 opportunities with a perfect ninth to finish the 2-hour, 13-minute game.
Izturis hit his first career leadoff home run with a shot to right to start the game.
“It’s my job,” he said. “I have to do that.”
Los Angeles is on a nice roll and arrived in the Bay Area fresh off a sweep of the Mariners in Seattle—the club’s first three-game sweep this season. The six-game winning streak is the club’s longest since also winning six in a row from May 16-22 last year.
After Bobby Crosby’s single with one out in the first, Lackey retired the next 15 hitters in order and 17 of 18 before surrendering Cust’s home run.
“I knew Lackey was throwing well,” Blanton said. “It looked like he was throwing darts out there and not missing spots. When he does that he’s going to be tough to hit, so when runners got on I tried to just shut it down right there and keep it close as possible to give us a chance.”
Blanton (3-8) had another tough result at home, pitching well enough to keep his team in the game. He gave up a home run for his fifth straight start and lost for the fourth time in his last five decisions. The burly right-hander fell to 1-6 with a 3.84 ERA at the Coliseum and leads the majors in home losses.
Blanton is 3-7 in 15 career appearances and 12 starts against the Angels— his most defeats to any team.
A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki gave the team a scare when he took a foul ball off the inside of his upper right thigh in the eighth inning with Howie Kendrick at the plate. Manager Bob Geren and athletic trainer Walt Horn came out to check on Suzuki, who stayed in the game and was called out on a close play at first in the bottom half.
Guerrero was back in Los Angeles’ starting lineup and batted cleanup after missing three games with a hyperextended right knee. His RBI single in the third put the Angels ahead 2-0.
“It’s good to get him in the middle of the lineup,” Scioscia said. “His presence is important for us and we’re going to need that as we move forward. Our offense still isn’t where it needs to be.”
The Angels’ Rally Monkey mascot celebrated its eighth birthday. Los Angeles came from behind to beat the San Francisco Giants 6-5 on June 6, 2000.
The teams split a four-game series in Anaheim in late April in their first meeting of the year. … Oakland is 7-12 this season against the AL West. … Jack Hannahan played DH for the A’s, the second time he’s done so in his career along with one appearance at the spot in 2006 while with Detroit. … A’s RHP Santiago Casilla threw off the mound for the third time since going on the disabled list May 16. He made about 35 pitches and was pleased with the result. “I’m throwing 100 percent,” said Casilla, whose next step would be a simulated game of 25 pitches Sunday. Then, if all goes well, he would begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Sacramento.