John Lackey stands between Yanks and Series


The Yankees will face John Lackey tonight for the second time this postseason. Few ALCS pitchers have as much experience as Lackey, who came up in the Angels’ 2002 championship season. This is his fifth postseason, and he has amassed 71.1 innings over 11 starts and two relief appearances. Yet only two of those starts have come in elimination games for the Angels.

The first was the most important. Down 5-0 with just nine outs until elimination in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series, the Angels rallied for three runs in the seventh and three in the eighth to force a Game 7 against the Giants. Taking the ball was Lackey, a rookie that year who had impressed in 108.1 regular season innings. He shined in that outing, pitching five innings of one-run ball, while the Angels pounded Giants starter Livan Hernandez.

Final line: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K — 86 pitches, 56 strikes

Understandably, that set up Lackey’s reputation as a clutch performer. That tends to happen when a rookie wins Game 7 of the World Series.

He didn’t pitch in another elimination playoff game until 2008, when the Angels found themselves down two games to one against Boston in the ALDS. Again, Lackey pitched well. He allowed just two runs over seven innings, and immediately after he left the game the Angels tied it at two in the top of the eighth. Mike Scioscia, not using his closer on the road in a tie game, even an elimination game, left in Scot Shields to face the Red Sox in the ninth, and didn’t even replace him after Jason Bay hit a ground rule double. Jed Lowrie singled him in with two outs, and that was the Angels’ season.

Final line: 7 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K — 96 pitches, 56 strikes

It appears that the Angels have the guy they want on the mound tonight. While the Angels are 1-1 in elimination games Lackey has pitched, the loss was not his fault. He pitched as well as can be reasonably expected in the playoffs. If the Yankees get that line out of Burnett tonight, they’ll be happy I’m sure.

While we’re here, why not take a look at Lackey vs. the Yankees in the playoffs?

2002 ALDS

Lackey was part of the saddest game of that sad series. The Yankees jumped all over Ramon Ortiz, scoring six runs off him in the fist three innings, knocking him out with two out in the third. Lackey came on to pitch three solid innings, holding the Yanks to three hits and no runs. The Angels got a few back off Mussina in the meantime, setting up a Mike Stanton disappointment. Torre left him in two batters too long, tough his eventual replacement, Steve Karsay, gave up the home run that iced the victory.

2005 ALDS

Yesterday I second guessed the decision to start Scott Kazmir in Game 4 over John Lackey. Subconsciously, I think I was thinking back to the 2005 ALDS, when Lackey started on three days’ rest to foil the Yankees. It didn’t work out in the end, but it was still a valiant effort.

The Yankees jumped out to a 2-0 lead by the fifth, and were still looking good when Juan Rivera homered to make it 2-1 in the bottom of the inning. A couple of errors, one in the sixth by A-Rod and one in the seventh by Tino, allowed the Angels to open up the game, and they evened the series at one. Lackey did his job, pitching 5.2 innings of two-run ball, though the Yankees didn’t quite capitalize on their 10 base runners against him. Scot Shields replaced him with runners on first and second with two out and ended the threat.

With the Angels up two games to one, thanks to a complete pitching implosion in Game 3, Lackey came back on three day’s rest to pitch Game 4 in New York. Again, he went 5.2 innings, this time allowing one run on two hits and four walks. He gave up an RBI single to Gary Sheffield immediately before Scioscia lifted him, but was still in line for a win after the inning. The Yanks made an improbable comeback off of Scot Shields to force a Game 5. That one I do not wish to relive.

2009 ALCS

Continuing his trend of 5.2 inning appearances against the Yankees, that’s how long Lackey went in Game 1, allowing four runs, though only two earned. The first unearned was the ball that landed between Chone Figgins and Erick Aybar. It wasn’t unearned because of the misplay, though, but because of a Juan Rivera throwing error that allowed Damon to take second on a single. The other unearned run came off an errant Kendry Morales throw that allowed Melky to take second and eventually score on a Jeter single, which was compounded when the ball got away from Torii Hunter. Lackey’s line was not at all impressive in that game: 5.2 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K.

John Lackey is known as a big gamer, and he has mostly lived up to that reputation. It started in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series, and even though he’s pitched just one elimination game since then, he’s come up for the Angels in the playoffs. They’ll need him at his best tonight. The Yankees are poised to strike.

Categories : Playoffs


  1. Reggie C. says:

    Strong Fundamentals defensive play will keep the Angels in the game. Lackey hopefully gives up a couple long balls and walks and goes no more than 6. I think the Angels are gonna be swinging at everything tonight , allowing Aj to go 7. If AJ keeps the WP count under 10 … we’re gonna come out ahead.

  2. jsbrendog says:

    yankees win it in the 7th-9th inning after either being tied or down.

  3. TheZack says:

    I have to teach tonight from 6-9 (PST), so I am really really hoping for a nice 5 run first inning or something. I mean, obviously I would be hoping for that anyway…

    I figure both starting pitcher gives up 2 runs though.

  4. larryf says:

    I say let’s run more to force the action. They did last game and although not always successful (especially Jeter getting picked off) I think it sets a tone that we are not just going to leave it up to long ball or 3 hits in a row to score.

    • I think it sets a tone that we are not just going to leave it up to long ball or 3 hits in a row to score.

      What’s the matter with setting those tones? You know, probably 90% of all runs scored in baseball over the past 80-odd years during the live-ball era were scored in one of those two ways. I’m just saying.

    • No. There’s no reason for the Yankees to run more. They were successful on the basepaths during the season because they were very discriminating and only ran at the right time. Running for the sake of running just gets you in trouble (see: Gardner, Brett in ALCS). The Yankees should set the tone the way they always do: seeing a fuck ton of pitches, getting on base, and then mashing the shit out of the ball once said runners are on said bases.

      • larryf says:

        well Jeter and Arod ran last game and they can hit pretty well too. I just think all weapons should be used to bury these guys. NO MOMENTUM for the Angels. A right hander who doesn’t throw big time heat/doesn’t have the greatest move and a catcher who is nothing great=a more aggressive approach for me in a game like tonight. Better chance to stay out of the double play as well….before game 4 we weren’t doing much mashing with risp….

        • Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter are successful base stealers because they seldom get caught. The more a player runs, the more he opens himself up to getting caught. With a team that can hit like the Yankees, you don’t want to run into outs to take ducks off the pond for the power hitters in the middle (and top…and bottom) of the lineup.

        • I’ve got no problem staying with the exact philosophy and strategy that won us 109 out of the 169 games we’ve played this year.

          We run when we have the chance but never force the issue just to “set a tone”, and we also stay patient, draw walks, increase pitch counts, get into bullpens, hit homers, and string together three-four hits in a row on occasion.

          We’re good. No need to change anything.

      • Lefty says:

        seeing a fuck ton of pitches


    • Tank Foster says:

      No, that would be foolish. You don’t muck with the strategy that won the most games in the majors. You don’t give away outs. I’m in favor of running in the strategic sense, meaning using hit and run to stay out of the double play in certain circumstances, to try to create a hole and increase the chance of a base hit, etc. Setting a tone can work both ways, like giving the Angels a lift by running your way out of an inning.

      Maybe we can have Posada steal again, but only if he promises not to overrun the bag.

  5. Play today, win today, das it.

  6. Herm Edwards says:

    You Play to win the game

  7. Mike Pop says:

    Not worried.

    Burnett is going to pitch great tonight, and we’re going to hit up Lackey for 4 runs in 5 innings.

    Book it.

  8. John Lackey stands between Yanks and Series

    That’s a typo. I believe you mean to say “John Lackey kneels before Yanks and Series.”

  9. mryankee says:

    As CC said the time has come. How wild a celebration would the Yankees be permitted in a visiting locker room? One other issue and this is small Lackey is also not only pitching for the Angels season but this could be his last start beforehe hits fa. He will be very motivated.

    • Spaceman.Spiff says:

      Ahh, if he weren’t about to hit free agency, he would be less than properly motivated? I don’t buy that kind of stuff in the playoffs, if anything he might press even more knowing that. It probably has minimal effect at this point.

      • mryankee says:

        I think it weighs on his mind. Its something he neverhad to pitch with before. Think about his situation-there are not many teams out there if any who will pay him like AJ. Also my guess is a lot of teams with money might be saving up a possible run at King Felix if Seattle does not resign him. Therefore I bet Lackey feels a little extra pressure.

        • Also my guess is a lot of teams with money might be saving up a possible run at King Felix if Seattle does not resign him.

          Amount of time it took you to take your comments to a completely tangential thread not related to John Lackey or the ALCS: 2 comments.

          I don’t know if that’s an improvement or a disappointment.

          • mryankee says:

            What are you talking about that was completely on topic. I am saying John Lackey might feel a bit of extra pressure tonight. He will be making his last strat before f/a he knows there might not be a great market for him this offseason because the teams that might be willing to sign him, might he saving or a run at King Felix. Having that in mind possibly he feels he has to make one last good impression to convince a team to open up the bank for him. Therefore there is added pressure on tonight

        • If Lackey is thinking about the free agent market while on the mound, then I think it’s safe to say that he will get pounded readily.

          • mryankee says:

            Take it wahetever way you want-I say that a pitcher who is a f/a for the first time after thsi season has to pitch with a little extra pressure. Thats is all I am saying. Whether it helps or hinders him I don’t know but I hope the latter is true.

            • And I’m saying I think that it would hinder him. If he’s thinking about his money next year or his future team, then his focus is off the batters and the Yankees will be able to hit him.

              Anyway, I highly doubt Lackey will be thinking about that tonight.

              • mryankee says:

                I hope your right about that-I am all for a good blowout and early celebration. I guess we will never know if he is thinking about f/a and he would never admit he was.

                • Spaceman.Spiff says:

                  I agree that a pitcher might be more focused in the long grind of the regular season if he is going to hit free agency next year but playoffs, you can throw all that out. He’s just gonna focus on trying to win this game, nothing more, nothing less.

                • mryankee says:

                  Most likely yes. Lets hope his agent mentions something regarding f/a before the game starts.

                • thurdonpaul says:

                  if im lackey, or whoever, and my agent does that,i tell him on the spot, your fired…byeeeee

  10. marc resnick says:

    I don’t like lackey, nor am i intimidated by him. I think he’s pitching hurt (velo was down last start) and if he has any problems with his curveball the yanks will knock him around. I think he’s pitching through injury because of his pending free agency. During yesterdays interviews when asked about preparation he basically said that preparation doesn’t mean much this time of year, its all adrenaline and that you play through not having your good stuff. I think the yanks will hit him to a line of 4 er over 5 ip.

  11. Dela G says:

    How the hell does he have a bulldog mentality. I mean no one ever calls CC Sabathia a “bulldog.” Is it because he “grits” through every out or something? I mean i’m sure every pitcher grinds out through starts and tries to buckle down during a start. Not everyone can breeze through 85 pitch complete games like they are greg maddux…

    • mryankee says:

      I am not sure he is a bulldog I think he a damn good pitcher. He has pitched well in the post season and you would have to say he is the ace of thier staff. I would say if he were a bulldog he would have begged for the ball in game four. Sciossa made a huge mistake not going with Lackey on three days rest.

      • Dela G says:

        i agree he’s an ace and a damn good pitcher, but i just don’t see how he is different from all of the other aces out there who do the same stuff. I mean Roy Halladay is the same way, but no one ever calls him that

  12. Riddering says:

    Can it be 8 PM already? I’m so pumped for this.

    A.J.’s not going to let the big man down. Not if he knows what’s good for him. He’s going to exceed that damn Lackey and the offense is going to make little girls cry.


  13. Tank Foster says:

    Lackey – or “Gomer Pyle” as those of us familiar with old Andy Griffith reruns might call him – is a good pitcher. However, I have the feeling that if he is to be successful tonight, he will have to make very few mistakes. I think the Yankees’ bats started seriously heating up last night, and I can see them pounding out another 12 hits if the pitcher isn’t right on top of things.

    I have a hunch this game might be comfortably in hand by the top of the 7th. AJ willing, that is.

  14. Ivan says:

    Ok, if John Lackey stands in the way, Yankees will run right over him then.

  15. Tank Foster says:

    For some reason, I can’t find a shot of Lackey with the rather ‘dull’ look he gets on his face when staring in for the sign, mouth hanging agape, so this one will have to do.




  16. Joe says:

    Kruk said it’s inevitable that the Yanks are going to the World Series. We’re screwed.

  17. BC says:

    I’d be much more worried if the series were tied up 2-2. At that point, perhaps AJ would be stressing out, and possibly overthrow etc. I think that even though he is on a huge stage, he just needs to give us a start of 6-7 innings, 3 runs or less, and he should put us in a position to advance. I think Lackey will pitch his usual good game, but we should be able to run up his pitch count and bounce him by the 7th at the latest. We haven’t really touched up their bullpen but I wouldn’t be surprised if we get to them tonight, after we exploded on them late in Game 4.

  18. Sleepy Carl says:

    MLB.com headline

    “The Comeback Kings Confident They Can do it Again.”

    This in reference to the Angels.

  19. [...] went over John Lackey earlier today, so for a quick take on him in elimination games, plus his performances against the Yankees in the [...]

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