Lackey took another step forward on Saturday, collecting career win No. 99 as the Angels defeated the Orioles, 5-1. The right-hander went seven innings, allowing only one run on seven hits to move to 8-5 on the year.
Though he recorded just one 1-2-3 inning in the start, Lackey showed consistency on the mound, allowing one or fewer hits in all but one inning. That inning was the third, the only in which the Angels starter seemed to run into any trouble. After Adam Jones hit a triple to right-center field for Baltimore, Nick Markakis followed with a double, sending Jones home for what would be the only Orioles run.
"Honestly they put some pressure on me," Lackey said. "They had some traffic on the bases and guys got some hits. I was able to make some big pitches to get out of a couple of innings with no damage, and they've got a nice lineup. They've got some pieces there that are going to be pretty good in the future."
While those "pieces" may be headed for bright futures in the big leagues, they were at the mercy of Lackey on Saturday. This outing marks the seventh consecutive start in which he has pitched at least six innings, and the right-hander hasn't allowed more than three earned runs since giving up six in a start against Texas on July 7.
Heading into the start, however, there was some interest in how Lackey, who threw a career-high 131 pitches in his previous start just six days ago, would respond after tossing so many pitches. After getting out of the seventh with still just the one run surrendered, Lackey appeared to get into a verbal argument with pitching coach Mike Butcher, potentially on whether the pitcher was able to go back out to pitch the eighth. The intensity continued to increase until manager Mike Scioscia intervened.
After the game, when asked if Lackey could've gone out for the eighth, Scioscia felt like the time was right to pull him.
"It was pretty humid out there," Scioscia said. "I think he maybe could have gone out and stretched out another one, but I think we don't have a lot of days off moving forward and we're not on six days this next time, so I think it was a good point to turn it over to the bullpen."
Lackey, however, had other thoughts.
"I think in a different situation I would've been pitching in the eighth," Lackey said. "I had plenty left in the tank for another one."
While Lackey kept the Orioles' bats quiet, it was the Angels' offense that found success off rookie starter Brian Matusz. A first-round pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, Matusz was making his first career start within the friendly confines of Camden Yards. But while Matusz brought the excitement of pitching in front of the home crowd, the Angels countered with experience -- and patience -- at the plate.
The Angels scored all five runs in the top of the third inning, forcing Matusz to face the entire lineup in the frame. After Jeff Mathis opened with a strikeout, the next five batters reached base, three on walks. Howie Kendrick grounded out for the second out of the inning, before a double by Robb Quinlan gave the Angels a 5-0 lead. Matusz lasted a solid 5 2/3 innings, but he gave up 11 hits and threw 98 pitches in the loss.
"His first two innings you saw all his stuff," Scioscia said. "Even going on after we got the five runs, he pitched out of trouble. We were very impressed with him. Good life on his fastball, terrific changeup [and] he was dropping his breaking ball under some right-handed swings and you can see why we liked him a couple of years ago when we drafted him, and, obviously, why Baltimore has him. He's got a bright future."
The future may belong to Matusz, but Saturday belonged to Lackey.
"We had some good at-bats off him," Jones said of Lackey. "But anytime he got into any trouble, he minimized it real quick and shut us down and got that third out. He got out of it. You tip your hat to the pitcher."