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Unflappable Lackey poised to perform
Lackey poised to perform in Game 1
By Anthony Castrovince
ANAHEIM -- Born in Texas, employed in southern California.
These are not exactly traits that bode well for John Lackey on Friday at 4:57 p.m. PT, when he gets the starting nod for the Angels for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on FOX in rainy, low-40s weather at Yankee Stadium. It's the kind of weather report that would make most Texans-turned-Californians shudder.
But if you think the guy who won Game 7 of the World Series as a rookie is worried about the weather, you haven't been paying attention.
"I don't think it's going to be that cold once you get out there, to be honest with you," Lackey said. "In a big game like this, I think the last thing on my mind would be the weather."
The weather does pose the potential to wreak havoc on Games 1 and 2 in the Bronx. But whether Game 1 takes place at its scheduled time on Friday or at some other point, Angels manager Mike Scioscia will confidently hand the ball to the right-handed, 6-foot-6, 245-pound Lackey, who is coming off his best postseason start since that '02 World Series triumph against the Giants.
"John Lackey -- I think like most pitchers that are those 'big-game pitchers' -- is a competitor," Scioscia said. "He doesn't want to come out of the ballgame. Pitch counts to John are meaningless. He doesn't even care. He doesn't look. He wants to win. He wants to get to where he throws the last pitch of a game, and he's never happy to come out of a game."
Lackey turned in a magnificent 7 1/3 innings against the Red Sox in Game 1 of the AL Division Series for his first postseason win since '02.
Now, he'll turn his attention to a star-studded Yankees lineup against which he's had his share of success over the years. Lackey won his only start against the Yanks this season, tossing seven innings in which he allowed a pair of runs on six hits on July 12. That day, he outdueled CC Sabathia, his Game 1 opposition.
In three career postseason appearances, including two starts, against the Yanks in 2002 and '05, Lackey has compiled a 1.88 ERA, allowing just three earned runs in 14 1/3 innings.
Clearly, the Yankee mystique, much like the weather report, doesn't faze Lackey, who was 11-8 with a 3.83 ERA in 27 starts in the regular season.
"I'm not going to get intimidated by anybody," he said. "That's why I'm throwing [Friday]."
Lackey, though, doesn't put much stock in his past successes against this team. Or the fact that he has a 1.71 ERA over his past three postseason starts.
"I don't think anything in the past really matters," he said. "We struggled against Boston [in past postseasons], and here we are. [The Yankees] are a great team and a great challenge for us."
Several names in the New York lineup have been particularly challenging for Lackey in the past. Catcher Jorge Posada (.414, 12-for-29), Derek Jeter (15-for-44) and former teammate Mark Teixeira (.388, 19-for-49) have given Lackey fits. Lackey has been able to hold Alex Rodriguez, who was red-hot in the ALDS against the Twins, to just nine hits in 51 at-bats, but four of those hits were home runs.
The deep Yankees lineup doesn't offer a pitcher much opportunity to pick his poison, Lackey said.
"You can't really pick one guy you want to go after," he said. "You want to get the guys at the top of the lineup to minimize the damage if the guys in the middle get their hits. It's going to be a tough challenge, for sure."
Lackey, who turns 31 next week, is up to the challenge. This is, undoubtedly, a big situation, as the two teams with baseball's two best records are squaring off to reach the World Series. But having been down this road before, Lackey is calm.
"Not a lot is going to surprise me," he said. "There's definitely a comfort level, having seen it before."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.