Lackey already pitched a big one before the postseason. In his native Texas, he was the starter and winning pitcher when the Angels clinched the Wild Card on Sept. 26.A big-time quarterback at Abilene High School, in a state that lives for football, Lackey got a taste of Friday Night Lights in his teens. His ability to thrive under pressure is rooted in that Texas soil. "In a big game, I'm pretty competitive," Lackey said. "I played everything growing up, and I like to come through in big games." In conversation, he's direct and to the point, an all-business manner he takes to the mound. This guy doesn't mess around. He goes right to work, putting his fastball in good locations, getting ahead in counts, dropping the hammer down with two strikes.
American League Division Series schedule
|Wed., Oct. 3||6:30 p.m.||Fenway Park||TBS|
|Fri., Oct. 5||8:30 p.m.||Fenway Park||TBS|
|Sun. Oct. 7||3 p.m.||Angel Stadium||TBS|
|*Mon. Oct. 8||9:30 p.m.||Angel Stadium||TBS|
|*Wed. Oct. 10||8:30 p.m.||Fenway Park||TBS|
|Thu., Oct. 4||6:30 p.m.||Jacobs Field||TBS|
|Fri., Oct. 5||5 p.m.||Jacobs Field||TBS|
|Sun. Oct. 7||6:30 p.m.||Yankee Stadium||TBS|
|*Mon. Oct. 8||6 p.m.||Yankee Stadium||TBS|
|*Wed. Oct. 10||5 p.m.||Jacobs Field||TBS|
|* If necessary. All times ET.|
"John has great stuff and command," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's consistent. He's competitive. He's a lead dog, a guy who likes to be out front."He's probably a little more vocal than Garret [Anderson] and Vlad [Guerrero]. He's supportive of everybody out there. He provides leadership." Lackey has enjoyed his best of six seasons, by far. He set the Cy Young Award as one of his goals -- reaching the postseason is always first and foremost -- and he's been in the hunt all year. Boston's Josh Beckett is the consensus Cy Young favorite, but Lackey figures to finish in the top three or four in the balloting. A few late-season leads got away from him, costing him wins, or he might be the favorite, given that his ERA is better than Beckett's. When he wasn't able to square off against Beckett at Fenway Park in August because of a change in the Angels' plans, Lackey was visibly upset. "You always look forward to something like that," he said. Lackey never criticizes a teammate, but he's the first to come flying out of the dugout to defend one. Everyone saw that the night Mariners right-hander Jorge Campillo threw fastballs that had Jeff Mathis and Vladimir Guerrero scrambling for cover. Lackey will pitch inside. He will establish that part of the plate to keep hitters honest and make his killer curveball all the more effective. He's Big Bad John, fearless, bold, showing the way. Big game? Give him the ball.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.