10/28/2002 12:36 AM ET
Rookie Lackey shows veteran poise
Pitcher picks up World Series win in Game 7
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The infield of Edison International Field had been transformed into a huge mosh pit, and the young man who had started the party was trying hard to take it all in.
"John Lackey did everything that could have been asked of him," Brandon Duckworth said. (Amy Sancetta/AP)
"This is unbelievable. People going crazy," John Lackey said, taking in the scene around him. "It's awesome."
The champagne went on ice in late afternoon. Then Lackey took the mound against the Giants, a human block of ice who refused to crack under Game 7 pressure.
For five innings, he held San Francisco at bay, holding the G-Men to a Reggie Sanders sacrifice fly while the Angels marshaled enough offense for a World Series-clinching 4-1 victory to pop those corks.
"I was prepared to go as long as they kept giving me the ball," Lackey shouted above the thunder of music and the delightful squeals of 45,000. "We were at the point where you couldn't hold anything back. I just let it fly. I let it all out there."
He let if fly long enough to become only the second rookie starting pitcher to win a Game 7. Even more remarkable, in the perspective of history, is that no one had done that since Babe Adams, in 1909.
Lackey had taken the mound unaware of that fact. He had left the mound and was changing to a clean uniform in the clubhouse when he first heard about it.
"I heard it mentioned on the TV," Lackey said. "But does it add to the feeling? No, nothing can add to this. This is enough by itself. This is awesome."
The Angels crossed the portal of baseball nirvana not only with a rookie turning the knob, but two other rookies carrying them across the threshold.
After Lackey's five innings, Brendan Donnelly went two and Francisco Rodriguez went another, taking it down to Troy Percival.
Thus, a trio of three contrasting rookies pitched eight of the nine innings of the ultimate game.
Lackey, the gradually-developed top prospect.
Donnelly, the often-disparaged 30-year-old retread.
K-Rod, the flashy comet.
"Not bad, huh? We've got a couple of young guys who'll be around here for a while," Lackey said. "It should be OK around here for years to come."
The tone was set by Lackey, who celebrated his 24th birthday Wednesday on the Pacific Bell Park mound in a no-decision start the Angels lost, 4-3.
Only the eighth rookie ever to start a Game 7, Lackey showed uncommon poise and veteran stuff from the outset.
He retired the side in order in the first, minimized the damage of a pair of one-out, second-inning singles to Sanders' scoring fly, and swept through the next three innings on a yield of only two other hits.
"This is the makeup of John Lackey," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "That's what he's all about. This guy is not going to rattle, he won't be intimidated."
"It's a big game, and I'm a little fired up," Lackey said. "But you've got to step back and go after people the way you have all year. I haven't been nervous all year.
"It's a big stage, but I just looked at it as an opportunity. It worked out for me. I left it all out there. Guys, like (Aaron) Sele and (Dennis) Cook, kept telling me to go hard, so whatever I had I left it out there."
Lackey dialed it up a notch in the fifth, a critical inning for a number of reasons. To become eligible for the victory, the starter must cross that line. And any bullpen shuttle is far more effective if it doesn't have to crank up until the sixth.
Lackey's five set it up perfectly for those who followed.
"We knew we were going to be thin tonight," Scioscia said. "The pieces of the jigsaw fit perfectly. Donnelly pitched two incredible innings and Frankie Rodriguez gave us a strong eighth after having thrown some 40 pitches the night before.
"But," the manager added, reserving the loudest toast for his starter, "what an effort from a youngster who started the season in Triple-A."
"Yeah," said Lackey, virtually consumed by the multimedia celebration he had triggered, "this is a long way from Salt Lake City."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.