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Two key twists not to Lackey's liking
Two key twists not to Lackey's liking
By Anthony Castrovince
ANAHEIM -- John Lackey didn't like the call of a ball, and he really didn't like the call to the bullpen.
So when Lackey walked off the field in the top of the seventh inning on Thursday night, with an Angel Stadium crowd of 45,113 on its feet and applauding his efforts in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, Lackey doffed his cap to the fans, but he hardly soaked in and enjoyed the moment.
He was fuming.
"I wasn't quite ready to be walking off," Lackey said after the Angels' eventual 7-6 win over the Yankees.
Lackey, possibly making his final start in an Angels uniform, argued with home-plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth when a borderline 3-2 pitch to Jorge Posada was ruled a ball in the seventh, giving the Yankees two on with two outs. And Lackey argued even more with manager Mike Scioscia when he was pulled two batters later, with the bases now loaded and two outs.
Scioscia said his heart wanted to leave Lackey in to face the switch-hitting Mark Teixeira, but he listened to another part of his body.
"My head said, 'Let's try to turn Tex around and get out of that inning right there,'" Scioscia said. "I think I just have a lot of confidence in John. He might have had enough to get in there and get Tex out, but I thought to turn [Tex] around at that point was the move."
It was, perhaps, the biggest decision Scioscia made all night. And it very nearly came back to bite him and an Angels team trying to stay alive in this best-of-seven set.
Given Lackey's protestations, you can only imagine how frustrated he must have been when he watched his bullpen come on the scene to let all three inherited runners score and let the Yanks not only erase a 4-0 Angels lead but also take a 6-4 lead of their own.
This disastrous inning -- which would be offset in the bottom half, when the Angels put together a three-run rally to take over for good -- essentially began with that walk to Posada. It was a close call -- and, replays revealed, an incorrect call -- that shifted the momentum away from Lackey and what had been a truly dominant outing.
John Lackey's 2009 postseason starts
With one on and one out, Posada had worked his way back from an 0-2 count to work it full. Lackey threw the left-handed-hitting Posada a pitch on the inside edge of the plate, at the knees. When Culbreth ruled the pitch a ball, Lackey, to put it politely, voiced his displeasure.
Pitching coach Mike Butcher had to come to the mound to get Lackey to calm down. And Culbreth also made a visit to the mound to have a few words with Lackey.
What was said?
"That's for the field," Lackey said.
What did Lackey think of the pitch?
"I'm sure you guys all saw the replay," he said.
Perhaps rattled by the call in question, Lackey walked the next batter, Derek Jeter, to load the bases. He did, however, get Johnny Damon to send a soft fly ball to left for the second out.
At that point with Teixeira due up, Scioscia came out to the mound to take the ball out of Lackey's hands.
"I knew that wasn't going to go well," third baseman Chone Figgins said. "With Lackey, it wasn't going to be easy. That's old school right there."
As Scioscia approached, Lackey yelled, "This is mine!"
But Scioscia wasn't having any of it.
"Once he comes out there," Lackey said, "he's pretty much made his mind up."
Scioscia would admit after the game, "Maybe [Lackey] still looked like he maybe had a little bit left in him."
Lackey sure felt so, even after 104 pitches.
"I thought I had a lot left," Lackey said. "That's as good as I've pitched in a while. I felt like I got to a point in the game where I should have been able to determine [when I come out]."
No such luck, and the Angels' luck got worse when left-hander Darren Oliver served up a bases-clearing double to Teixeira to make it 4-3.
The inning imploded from there. Oliver intentionally walked the red-hot Alex Rodriguez, then served up the game-tying RBI single to Hideki Matsui.
In came rookie Kevin Jepsen, who immediately surrendered a two-run triple to Robinson Cano, making it 6-4.
Had Lackey, who was charged with three runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings, gotten his way, perhaps the inning would have been drastically different. But as it stands, it was a big inning for the Yanks.
"It was frustrating," Lackey said. "But D.O.'s done a great job for us all postseason. That might be the first time he's given up a run. It's hard to fault that. It's going to happen eventually."
Still, this was hardly a ceremonial exit for the Angels' ace. And given his impending free-agent status and the Angels' ALCS hole, there was reason to believe this start could be the last of his career here.
But the Angels' bats came to life in the bottom of the inning to take a 7-6 lead that would stand and keep hope alive.
If the ALCS goes to a Game 7, Lackey will be available out of the 'pen. And if he gets the call in that scenario, it will be the first call in a while that he's pleased with.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.