Beware of big dog: Lackey is back

Lackey heating up at right time

ANAHEIM -- The big dog is barking again. John Lackey has his bite back.

The leader of the Angels' pitching staff, in temperament and performance, Lackey appears to be embarking on a run at the right time of the season as he engages southpaw Ryan Rowland-Smith in the series finale against the Mariners on Thursday night.

Emerging from a two-game funk at Cleveland and at home against Detroit (11 1/3 innings, 17 hits, 11 earned runs), Lackey has been dealing prime-time stuff his past two outings against the Athletics at home and the Royals in Kansas City.

"I've been feeling good with my command," said Lackey, who held his ground in a duel with American League Cy Young Award contender Zack Greinke in Kansas City last time out.

Lackey's command is reflected in the numbers in those two outings: 17 innings, 11 hits and two walks, one earned run, 10 strikeouts.

Lackey claimed career win No. 100 (against 70 losses) against the A's on Aug. 30, holding them to one unearned run in eight innings.

His endurance back after missing the season's first six weeks with a forearm strain, Lackey has gone at least seven innings in eight of his past 11 starts and 12 of 16.

"John's been on his game," said catcher Jeff Mathis, who has called the pitches the past two outings. "He's putting his fastball in good spots, and his breaking ball and changeup have been good, too.

"It's good to see him throwing like this, at this time of the year. It's a good sign."

For the first time all season, the Angels have a proven, high-quality rotation operating together, with Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Scott Kazmir and Ervin Santana falling in behind the lead dog, Lackey.

Pitching matchup
LAA: RHP John Lackey (9-7, 3.74 ERA)
Lackey helped carry the Angels past Kansas City's Zack Greinke in his last start. Lackey went nine innings and allowed just one run. He also struck out four but drew a no-decision in a game the Angels would win in 11 innings. Lackey has allowed just one earned run in his last 17 innings. He's surrendered three earned runs or less in 15 of his 22 starts this season, and he's gone at least seven innings in eight of his last 11. Lackey has faced Seattle twice in 2009, with both of those starts coming in May. He allowed nine runs in 12 1/3 innings while going 1-1 against the Mariners.

SEA: LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith (3-2, 3.88 ERA)
Rowland-Smith tossed out eight strong innings against the A's in his last start, scattering three runs on just four hits and one walk while striking out four. It marked his first start in Oakland since April 5, when he lasted just 3 1/3 innings after experiencing elbow pain that forced him to miss a good chunk of the season. This will mark the southpaw's first start against the Angels this year.

Tidbits
Three of Lackey's seven career shutouts have come against the Mariners. ... Of the 35 players on the current Angels roster, 23 are homegrown products -- including four of the five starting pitchers and all four catchers. ... Howard Kendrick, who has been playing only against lefties, is riding a six-game hitting streak with 11 hits (.478). He's batting .361 in 133 at-bats since July 4, when he was recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake. ... Robb Quinlan is batting .289 since July 1 with 38 at-bats. In six starts in July, he batted .350 with six runs and six RBIs. Lifting his average to .294 from the right side, Kendry Morales has not needed much relief at first base, however, reducing opportunities not only for Quinlan but also for Brandon Wood. ... Vladimir Guerrero is 4-for-7 with a homer against Rowland-Smith, and Bobby Abreu is 2-for-4 with a homer. Reggie Willits has two hits and a walk in four plate appearances against the 6-foot-3 native of New South Wales.

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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FS-W

On radio
• KLAA 830, KFWB, KWKW 1330 (Español)

Up next
• Friday: Angels (Joe Saunders, 12-7, 4.97) vs. White Sox (Gavin Floyd, 11-9, 3.84), 7:05 p.m. PT
• Saturday: Angels (Ervin Santana, 7-8, 5.71) vs. White Sox (John Danks, 12-9, 3.84), 1:10 p.m. PT
• Sunday: Angels (Scott Kazmir, 8-8, 5.43) vs. White Sox (Mark Buehrle, 12-7, 3.77), 12:35 p.m. PT

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