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Angels take a hit with Lackey

Lackey hit and offense misses in Game 3

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ANAHEIM -- An ace took the mound Friday and his name was Jon, but he didn't sport a red hat.

He instead wore basic black and basically shut down the Angels on a warm night that seemed tailor-made for a big strong right-hander from Abilene, Texas, where heat is as common as wearing boots.

The Angels needed a solid outing from John Lackey, but the memo seemingly went to White Sox starter Jon Garland, who went the distance to hand the Angels a 5-2 loss and a 2-1 deficit in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.

Garland was handed a three-run lead before he even reached for the rosin bag to open his night and that modest outburst proved to be ample as the Angels collected just four hits, with the lone highlight being Orlando Cabrera's two-run homer in the sixth.

The Angels will turn to rookie right-hander Ervin Santana in Game 4 on Saturday night, with right-hander Freddy Garcia going for the White Sox.

"They put us in a hole and Garland shut us down," said Darin Erstad, who doubled with two out in the second for the Angels' first hit but was thrown out as he tried to leg out a triple. "It wasn't a lack of effort."

The club also did not believe its travels earlier in the week, when they played three games in three cities in a 48-hour span, had any bearing in Friday's loss. But the Angels have scored just six runs in the series and they're hitting just .174 for the series.

"We've had spells where the pitching has had to carry us," Lackey said. "But I didn't pitch well tonight on a night I had to."

Lackey has prided himself in the past for being able to pitch in the heat, and he's also shown an ability to handle the heat and pressure of the playoffs. He started Game 7 of the 2002 World Series and earned the win with five innings of one-run ball.

Last Sunday in New York, Lackey held the Yankees to a run on two hits over 5 2/3 innings while pitching on short rest.

But from the first batter Friday, the only thing that appeared short was Lackey's command as he struggled to locate his breaking ball for most of his five innings, losing for the first time in eight career postseason starts.

Scott Podsednik lined Lackey's third pitch of the night for a sharp single to center and the White Sox left fielder took second on Tadahito Iguchi's sacrifice. Jermaine Dye then drilled a single that split the gap in right-center, tailing away from center fielder Steve Finley allowing Podsednik to trot home with the White Sox first run.

Lackey had Paul Konerko staring at a 1-2 count before the first baseman ran it full and then hammered a hanging curveball to left for a two-run shot, his first home run of the ALCS, third of the postseason and a 3-0 Sox lead.

It wasn't the outing the Angels expected out of Lackey, who won four of his last seven starts without a loss and is the heir apparent to ace status with the loss of injured Bartolo Colon for at least the ALCS.

"John wasn't as crisp from the get-go tonight or as crisp as he's been," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's pitched a lot of baseball. It's one of those that you chalk up to where I don't think the ball is coming out of his hand as crisply as it has. He was out of the zone a little bit and they got into some hitting counts."

The White Sox built on their lead with single runs in the third and fifth innings.

In the third, Iguchi singled to left to lead off the inning and Dye walked. After Konerko struck out, Carl Everett singled to drive in Iguchi and the Sox took a 4-0 lead. Then with one out in the fifth, Iguchi doubled to left-center and after Dye struck out, Konerko lined a single to center off Lackey to score Iguchi and the Sox built a 5-0 lead.

Lackey (0-1) said he never found the release point on his curve in unusually dry at conditions at Angel Stadium, except in October. The right-hander put the rap on a couple of bad pitches, but admitted he put the "Go" in the White Sox on a night he needed to be the stopper.

"Their whole starting rotation is solid," said Lackey, who allowed five runs on eight hits and a walk while striking out three. "I have to pitch well. You can't give up four, five runs because they can pitch. But you have to give credit to Garland."

The last time Garland pitched was Oct. 1 in Cleveland, but the layoff did not affect the right-hander as he methodically strode through the Angels' lineup. His lone mistake was Cabrera's homer, but even that was more about a good swing than poor location.

Garland faced the minimum in seven of his nine innings and retired 10 straight to finish the game.

"He threw a lot of fastballs today," Cabrera said. "We didn't swing the bats like we usually do. He pitched a [heck of a] game and you have to give him credit."

So on a night the Angels sorely hoped they could put the specter of Wednesday's disputed call behind them, they now must find a way to rally Saturday and avoid the brink of elimination, and they'll need to do it with a rookie.

"We feel we have a good young arm going against those guys, and the only way you're going to beat pitching is match pitch for pitch," Scioscia said. "We didn't get it done tonight, but we'll be back tomorrow."

Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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