"We knew there would be some rough edges with him coming back from injury no matter how much you prepare and rehab," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Getting back to the Majors is an adjustment, and John is going through that."
Yet, as of late, Lackey has been back to his old self, winning two of his last three decisions, dropping his ERA by more than one run.
"Now I think we are seeing some real consistency in his pitches," Scioscia said. "He is starting to go out and pitch his game, and now he has more tools to do that and has really good command his last few starts."
After Lackey's last start on Friday, when he pitched a solid eight innings and gave up four hits on two runs while recording seven strikeouts and only one walk, Scioscia said it was the best stuff he had seen out of Lackey in a few years.
If Lackey can find his form against the Rangers this time around and record at least two strikeouts, he will pass Mark Langston for fifth on the Angels' all-time strikeouts list.
"I feel like I have become stronger the last few starts and definitely location of my pitches has been better," Lackey said. "I have thrown the ball well and am moving in the right direction."
With such a potent Rangers lineup that can hit from top to bottom, Lackey knows he has to locate his pitches well to have success.
"This is a big series for us, and we need to play well," Lackey said. "For me, I really need to get ahead of hitters and keep the top of their lineup off the basepaths."
LAA: RHP John Lackey (3-3, 4.70 ERA)
Lackey was superb, giving up two earned runs on four hits in eight innings in a win against the Orioles his last time out. He retired the first eight and 12 of the first 13 batters he faced. Lackey is 10-10 with a 5.79 ERA against the Rangers in his career.
TEX: RHP Dustin Nippert (2009 debut)
Nippert, sidelined since the beginning of the season with a strained muscle in the back of his right shoulder, is coming off the disabled list to make his first start of the season. The right-hander had a 2.25 ERA in five games (four starts) during a Minor League rehab assignment. He was 0-1 with a 6.92 ERA in three games against the Angels last season, and he was 2-3 with a 5.63 ERA in six starts for the Rangers last year. Nippert replaces Vicente Padilla, who is sidelined with a sore right shoulder but has not yet been put on the DL.
Lackey's 5.79 career ERA against the Rangers is the second highest against them by any pitcher who has made at least 21 starts. Red Sox righty Tim Wakefield has the worst with a 5.98 ERA. ... First-round Draft pick, outfielder Randal Grichuk had a big day for the Tempe Owls on Sunday, going 6-for-7 with three doubles, three runs scored, four RBIs and one stolen base. ... With his home run on Sunday against the Orioles, Vladimir Guerrero tied Joe Carter for 48th place on the all-time home run list with 396.
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Wednesday: Angels (Ervin Santana, 1-4, 7.43) vs. Rangers (Vicente Padilla, 6-4, 4.75), 7:05 p.m. PT
Friday: Angels (Joe Saunders, 8-5, 4.44) vs. Yankees (TBD), 7:05 p.m. PT