"I had good stuff," Lackey said in the wake of a 5-2 triumph by the Mariners on Friday night in front of 38,492 at Angel Stadium. "I'm real close to making a run. My arm is feeling good. My two-seamer was about as good as it's been in two years."
Lackey enjoyed making it into the eighth inning in his fourth start coming back from a strained right forearm, with 68 of his 106 deliveries in the strike zone. But he wasn't accepting any moral victories or pats on the back for sparing the bullpen more wear and tear.
"My standards are a little bit higher than that," he said, grinning. "When I get the ball, I want to go all the way."
On the other side of the field, Jason Vargas, a native of Apple Valley in nearby San Bernardino County, returned home to Southern California in style.
Vargas, a 26-year-old southpaw acquired from the Mets in a mammoth winter deal, claimed the win with 6 1/3 polished innings.
Vargas departed with two runners on base, having yielded two earned runs on four hits. Right-hander Sean White quelled the seventh-inning threat as the Angels fell 4 1/2 games behind the Rangers in the American League West.
"Another soft [tossing] lefty," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Seems like they give us trouble. He cut the ball in, pitched well. I don't want to take anything away from him. We got some balls to square up, but didn't. And we hit some balls hard for outs."
Juan Rivera, accounting for three of the Halos' five hits, homered against Vargas in the fifth inning and singled in front of Kendry Morales' RBI single in the seventh. Morales' hit delivered Torii Hunter, who'd walked.
Rivera pulled a page out of Hunter's scrapbook in the eighth when he scaled the left-field fence to take a home run away from Russell Branyan.
The next hitter, Jose Lopez, launched one just beyond Rivera's grasp as he climbed the fence a second time. Lopez's homer ended Lackey's night, and the big right-hander fell to 1-1.
"Juan's getting comfortable out there," Scioscia said. "He's running better. That was great timing on the catch -- and he almost got the other one."
The Mariners jumped on Lackey in the third with three straight one-out singles. Ichiro Suzuki drove in Endy Chavez with the only sharply struck ball of the inning, a line drive to right.
"[Aaron] Sele told me a long time ago that once it's out of your hand, you can't steer it," Lackey said.
After a walk, Adrian Beltre singled home a second run on a dribbler down the third-base line, and Ken Griffey Jr.'s sacrifice fly made it 3-0.
Vargas, the Southern California Junior College Player of the Year in 2003 at Cypress College before moving on to Long Beach State, had faced one batter more than the minimum when Rivera led off the fifth with a solo blast to left-center.
It was Rivera's fifth homer of the season, and four have come at the Mariners' expense.
Lackey's right calf took a bullet off the bat of Rob Johnson in the fourth. Reacting quickly as the ball bounded away, Lackey got the out at first, then informed certified athletic trainer Rick Smith that he was OK.
"Smitty just wanted some TV time," Lackey joked. "It was all meat, all on the calf. No worries. I've got plenty of meat."
Lackey kept Seattle quiet until the sixth, when Branyan doubled leading off, advanced on a bunt and scored on Chavez's sacrifice fly despite a strong throw from left field by Rivera.
Chone Figgins' hitting streak ended at a career-best 15 games when he lined out to Branyan at first base in his final at-bat against Mark Lowe in the eighth.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.