Angels come alive for Lackey

Angels rally late for Lackey

ANAHEIM -- Apparently, the cavalry is ready to ride.

Over the weekend, manager Mike Scioscia said that he and his staff were not simply waiting for outside help to arrive and rescue them from a lackluster season.

They want help from the inside.

That plea was taken to heart Monday as the Angels saddled up to post a five-run, eighth-inning rally with Mike Napoli blowing the horn for a 5-4 victory over the Rockies to open the series.

It was the fourth win in the last five games for the Angels but possibly a bigger emotional boost was the fact John Lackey earned just his second victory in his last 11 starts.

"It was a big win for us because of how we won it," Lackey said. "To come from behind was huge, but it wasn't just for me. It was huge for the whole team."

The Angels were down by three runs in the bottom of the eighth when Maicer Izturis got it started with a leadoff single off Rockies starter Jason Jennings.

They batted around in the inning, getting RBIs from Chone Figgins, Vladimir Guerrero and Juan Rivera. But the clutch hit was Napoli's two-run double that split the right-center gap and turned a one-run deficit into a one-run lead, 4-3.

"I was looking for something to hit in the air. I wanted to stay out of the double play," Napoli said of his hit with the bases loaded. "But it was a team thing. It wasn't just my hit. We played well."

Francisco Rodriguez allowed a two-out home run in the top of the ninth, only the second run he's allowed in 34 Interleague innings, but still earned his 19th save. Orlando Cabrera singled to extend his streak of reaching base to 54 games, the fifth longest streak since 1960.

"The way you win is almost as important as the win. We haven't played good baseball lately," Scioscia said. "A lot of games we've lost is a direct result on how we've played. We need to play better baseball and we did that tonight."

Lackey (5-5) was the key benefactor of the rally, though, and no one on the team is more deserving.

The right-hander has pitched as well as any of the Angels' starters this season but run support has been slim and Lackey has been required to pitch at a near flawless level to notch a W.

The Angels had scored four runs or fewer in nine of Lackey's 15 starts prior to Monday and he'd recorded a win in just one of those outings. That would be the 4-0 shutout of the Tigers when Lackey went eight innings.

Since that time, Lackey visited the winner's circle only once, when he allowed two runs but his teammates busted out for 14 in Cleveland.

In his last start, Lackey allowed three runs but just one earned to take the loss in San Francisco and said afterward that he had passed frustration long ago. But he also said later that he had no choice but to put those numbers behind him.

"You've got to be professional about it," Lackey said. "You've got to go about your business. You have to work hard and you have to give your team a chance to win."

Lackey gave up just four hits Monday, but the problem was the two consecutive that he allowed in the first inning. Clint Barmes guided a ground ball up the middle for a single and Todd Helton followed by launching a 2-1 fastball into the center-field seats for his eighth home run.

The Rockies would load the bases in the second, but Lackey got a double play ball out of Jamey Carroll as Adam Kennedy and Cabrera combined to turn two and end the inning.

Lackey did not allow a hit over the next three innings and just one baserunner when he hit Helton with a pitch in the third. But his concentration seemed to slip in the sixth when he walked Matt Holliday on five pitches with one out.

Garrett Atkins grounded out to third, but Brad Hawpe singled to right to bring home Holliday and Lackey found himself in a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 deficit.

Lackey retired the last seven batters he faced. He walked two batters on the night with four strikeouts over eight innings.

"Lackey's got a good fastball, low to mid 90s, and he can throw a good cutter in on us. He threw curves and changeups for strikes," Hawpe said. "Any time a quality pitcher can throw four pitches for strikes anytime he wants, it makes it tough at the plate."

His counterpart looked at first as if he were going to turn in a viable no-hit bid. Jennings attempt at holding the Angels hitless extended into the fifth before Rivera stroked a ground-rule double to left.

Jennings also allowed four hits and two runs on the night, leaving with a 3-0 lead after allowing the single to Izturis and a six-pitch walk to Kennedy to start the seventh.

The Angels then teed off on Rockies reliever Jose Mesa, who allowed consecutive base hits to Figgins and Cabrera, an RBI ground ball to Guerrero and an intentional pass to Garret Anderson before surrendering the double to Napoli.

Mesa (0-2) took the loss.

"It remains to be seen where we're going to end up, but our position as a staff is to come to the ballpark, assuming this is the team that we are going to have to win with," Scioscia said. "We need guys like Maicer Izturis and Juan Rivera to step up. It's important that we get help in different forms."

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