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Lackey eyes October success vs. Sox

Lackey eyes October success vs. Sox

ANAHEIM -- The Angels' John Lackey has pitched reasonably well against the Red Sox in the playoffs, particularly last October in their American League Division Series meeting.

He had a 2.63 ERA against Boston in two starts and held the Sox to a .212 batting average. In 13 2/3 innings, he allowed four runs on 11 hits and four walks while striking out six.

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The Angels lost both games. Throw in a 4-0 defeat to Josh Beckett in the 2007 ALDS and the Angels have lost all three playoff games that Lackey has started against the Red Sox.

He tries to reverse that trend when he takes the mound as the Angels Game 1 starter at 6:37 p.m. PT on Thursday night at Angel Stadium.

Tale of the Tape: Game 1
2009 Regular Season
Overall: 32 GS, 15-8, 64 BB, 225 K.
Overall: 27 GS, 11-8, 3.83 ERA, 47 BB, 139 K.
Key stat: Only MLB lefty with 200-plus strikeouts in '08.
Key stat: Left-handed batters are hitting. 271 vs. .247 by right-handers.
Postseason
Career: 5 GS, 2-2, 2.25 ERA.
Career: 9 GS, 2-3, 3.39.
At Angel Stadium
2009: No games. Career: 2 GS, 1-0, 8.64 ERA.
2009: 13 GS, 6-5, 3.59. Career: 111 GS, 49-32, 3.72.
Against this opponent
2009: No games Career: 4 GS 1-1, 7.78 ERA.
2009: 1 GS, 0-1, 2.35. Career: 9 GS, 3-7, 5.25.
Loves to face.: Chone Figgins (2-for-8, 0 SB) Hates to face: Gary Matthews, Jr. (3-for-6, 2 HRs).
Loves to face: Mike Lowell (3-for-21, 1 RBI, 7 K). Hates to face: David Ortiz (11-for-33, 2 HR, 10 RBI).
Game breakdown
Why he'll win: Dominated LAA in '08 postseason
Why he'll win: Experience counts, stuff too
Pitcher beware: No easy outs in Angels' lineup
Pitcher beware: Ellsbury can be as dangerous as Figgins
Bottom line: Overpowering stuff
Bottom line: Due for a big effort
"If I pitch up to my capabilities I like my chances against anybody," Lackey said. "But you've got to be focused. You've got to take every game as a new challenge. What I did in the past is not going to have anything to do with Thursday, really."

Including the regular season and the playoffs, Lackey is 3-9 with a 4.95 ERA in 17 career starts against the Red Sox. He faced them once this year and again pitched well on Sept. 15 at Fenway Park, allowing three runs, two earned, in 7 2/3 innings. But Daisuke Matsuzaka was better and the Red Sox won, 4-1.

Several Red Sox have been able to beef their stats at Lackey's expense. David Ortiz is hitting .341 (15-for-44) with three home runs and 12 RBIs off Lackey, Kevin Youkilis is 8-for-25 (.320) with three home runs and Jason Bay is 3-for-7 with a home run. The Red Sox also added Victor Martinez this summer and he is 10-for-21 (.476) off the right-hander.

"It's really a deep lineup," Lackey said. "I mean, you've got to make pitches throughout the lineup. I mean, they're strong one through nine. You definitely would like to keep some of those guys off the bases early in the lineup so the guys in the middle can't do quite as much damage. It's going to be a challenge for sure. They're a good team."

Lackey has had his moments against the Red Sox. They do not "own" him. Lackey beat them twice in the regular season in 2008, including a complete game on July 29 when he took a no-hitter into the ninth inning.

"He has good stuff," Red Sox infielder Mike Lowell said. "He has a good curveball and he mixes it up with different speeds. He has good location and good velocity. He has a lot of talent."

Lowell recites the black-and-white scouting report. That's not why Lackey is getting the ball in Game 1. What clearly stands out about Lackey is his mound presence, his attitude and demeanor. He is the "bulldog" on the Angels pitching staff.

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia compared him to Roy Halladay. Angels reliever Darren Oliver had a different comparison in mind.

"He's Will Clark, except he's on the mound," Oliver said. "You know how Will Clark was all fiery and yelling on the field? That's John. He's really fiery and he wants the ball."

He showed that in his last start of the regular season against the Rangers. Lackey was only supposed to pitch two innings and Chris Davis hit a two-run home run in the second. Davis, playing with a strained left hamstring, took a little longer than usual to get around the bases and Lackey started barking at him to get moving.

"He competes as well as anybody in the game," Pedroia said.

"He is a bulldog," Angels outfielder Torii Hunter said. "He goes out there and wants the ball every fifth day. If he could go every three days he would. He's not afraid to throw strikes and let the defense do the work. He's got such passion on the mound, when he comes into the dugout, he's either excited or mad at something."

ANGELS' GAME 1 LINEUP
Thursday, 6:37 p.m. PT on TBS
Chone Figgins, 3B
Bobby Abreu, RF
Torii Hunter, CF
Vladimir Guerrero, DH
Juan Rivera, LF
Kendry Morales, 1B
Howard Kendrick, 2B
Jeff Mathis, C
Erick Aybar, SS
John Lackey, P

Angels manager Mike Scioscia had options for his Game 1 starter. The Angels clinched with six games to go in the season and Scioscia had plenty of time to re-arrange his rotation. He had a pair of 16-game winners in Jeff Weaver and Joe Saunders. He had Scott Kazmir, who has a 1.73 ERA in six starts for the Angels since being acquired from Tampa Bay.

Scioscia stayed with Lackey, who will forever be remembered by Angels fans as the fearless rookie who started and won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series.

"First of all, he's pitching very well," Scioscia said. "He also has the presence to go out there and make pitches in any situation. All our starters are bulldogs and John has the ability to temper that and still perform at a high level. He's going to perform in any situation and not let it affect him whether it's Spring Training, the regular season or the playoffs.

Winning Game 7 in 2002 was a huge moment for Lackey and the Angels. But it is also significant. That's the last time Lackey was the winning pitcher in a playoff game. He is winless in his last six starts.

He gets another chance on Thursday and he gets it against his arch-nemesis.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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