Lackey works six as Angels rout Rangers
Maybe John Lackey was already thinking about his plans for the evening.
Despite struggling through six innings, Lackey was good enough to pitch the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels closer to the postseason with a 10-5 victory Sunday over second-place Texas that stretched their division lead to 7 1/2 games with 13 to play.
"I was a little off. I stunk even in the bullpen. It was one of those days," said Lackey, the native Texan who was headed across the street for the Dallas Cowboys' home opener in their new stadium Sunday night. "But the boys took care of me for sure and I appreciate it."
downlevel descriptionThis video requires the Adobe Flash Player. Download a free version of the player.
Gary Matthews Jr. snapped out of his September slump with a tiebreaking homer and a two-run single, and Howie Kendrick drove in five runs with a two-run homer and a bases-loaded triple. Juan Rivera and Chone Figgins also homered for the Angels (89-60), who won two of three in the series.
"It's important to reach our first goal and today got us closer to that," manager Mike Scioscia said. "To beat the team chasing you is a positive."
Los Angeles is closing in on its third straight division title and fifth in six years. The last team to win the AL West three consecutive seasons was Oakland from 1988-90.
The Rangers (81-67), who last went to the playoffs 10 years ago, wrapped up a 2-7 homestand during which they had four shutout losses and dropped 2 1/2 games in the division standings.
"We're not mathematically out of it, but our chances aren't very good right now," Ian Kinsler said. "We had a rough homestand. We all knew that it was important. We just didn't play well."
Boston leads the Rangers by eight games in the AL wild-card race. Texas' loss also meant that the New York Yankees could clinch a playoff berth Sunday with a victory at Seattle.
After scoring only four runs combined in its previous six games, Texas took a 3-0 lead in the first off Lackey (11-8), who had allowed only three earned runs in his previous four starts. But Los Angeles immediately responded with runs each time after the Rangers scored.
Lackey allowed five runs, four earned, in six innings with four strikeouts and two walks.
"He kept pitching," Scioscia said. "That's what makes him good."
Matthews was 1 for 13 in his seven games this month before a two-run single in the second that got Los Angeles to 3-2.
His baserunning mistake led to an inning-ending double play, when he started running on a fly ball thinking that there were already two outs. But he made up for that with his two-out solo homer in the sixth that broke a 5-all tie and chased rookie left-hander Derek Holland (7-12), who lost his fifth consecutive start.
"It's a bad play. That can't happen," Matthews said. "Luckily, it didn't come back to haunt us."
Kendrick's two-run homer tied the game earlier in the sixth. He finished with three hits and is batting .420 (34 of 81) in his last 20 games.
An inning later, after Los Angeles loaded the bases following two quick outs, Kendrick hit a liner that glanced off the stretched-out glove of center fielder Marlon Byrd and rolled to the wall.
Hank Blalock had an RBI single in the Texas first before a two-run single by Nelson Cruz, who was 3 for 30 in his previous nine games. David Murphy had a leadoff double and scored on Kinsler's sacrifice fly in the third, but Rivera's solo homer came in the fourth.
Byrd's RBI single in the fifth put Texas up 5-3, but the Angels homered twice in the following inning to go ahead for good.
The first pitch was moved up 2 hours from the originally scheduled start time because of the Cowboys' game Sunday night at their adjacent new stadium. The 12:08 p.m. CDT start matched the earliest at Rangers Ballpark, in its 16th season. ... Lackey's 102nd victory with the Angels matched Frank Tanana for fourth on the team list. ... Angels starters have a 2.20 ERA over their last 22 games. ... Rangers 3B Michael Young acknowledged that he aggravated his strained left hamstring when he returned early. He has missed 15 of 16 games, with the only appearance since getting hurt on Sept. 1 being his one at-bat Tuesday. ... Rivera's 23 homers tie a career high.