Ace tossed as Angels fall to Rangers
Starter throws just two pitches in abbreviated 2009 debut
ARLINGTON -- After waiting six weeks for his right forearm strain to mend and then waiting out a 76-minute rain delay, John Lackey made his season debut for the Angels on Saturday -- and lasted all of two pitches.
With their ace long gone, ejected for throwing behind and then hitting Ian Kinsler with a two-seam fastball in the left side, the Angels were dismissed by Vicente Padilla and the Rangers, 5-3, at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
The Rangers' sixth win in a row pushed their American League West lead over the Angels to 3 1/2 games.
"We came out to play baseball, and that's what we did," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "You have to ask Lackey about that [incident]. We just played good baseball. I don't know what that was all about."
Lackey insisted he was not deliberately throwing at Kinsler, maintaining steadfastly that a pair of two-seam fastballs got away from him.
"I haven't pitched in six weeks, man," Lackey said. "I was obviously trying to come in on him. There was no intention whatsoever to throw behind him or hit him."
Behind right-hander Scott Feldman, the Rangers will go for a series sweep on Sunday. Jered Weaver, hoping to last a lot longer than Lackey, will try to bring his "A" game for the Angels.
For the second straight game in a frustrating series, the Angels out-hit Texas but were unable to put together the right combinations, while the Rangers managed to string enough hits together.
With 26 hits in two games -- six by leadoff catalyst Chone Figgins -- and nothing to show for it, the Angels were frustrated, to put it mildly.
"Everybody hit the ball hard today," Bobby Abreu said, having gone 1-for-4 with one deep drive handled by Josh Hamilton at the wall in center field. "They just made good plays. It was one of those days.
"There's nothing you can do. Just try to keep hitting the ball hard and find some holes."
The Rangers have won 12 of their past 14 and 16 of 21.
After Figgins' legs had manufactured a first-inning Angels run without a hit, the Rangers tied it in the bottom half when Josh Hamilton's sacrifice fly against Shane Loux (2-3 with the loss) scored Kinsler, who'd stolen second and advanced on a groundout.
After Jarrod Saltalamacchia's two-run single in the second, the Angels drew even with a pair of runs in the fourth on RBI singles by Juan Rivera and Figgins. Even then, however, they were left with frustration, having produced five hits in the inning.
A double-play ground ball by Erick Aybar, who had a homer, triple and double in the series opener, came after three singles and before two more. Abreu left two runners in scoring position when he grounded out.
Padilla departed after eight innings, having scattered 10 hits while walking three men. The Angels were 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
"I thought we had real good at-bats against him," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Those guys played terrific defense behind him.
"Those guys are swinging the bats well. Kinsler hit two home runs [on Friday night]. We've got to make better pitches. We're not going to throw at people; that's not what we're about."
Saltalamacchia triggered a two-run fourth that reclaimed the lead for Texas by hitting a single and moving to third on Elvis Andrus' single. After Kinsler walked, Young singled home Saltalamacchia. Loux was replaced by Darren Oliver, who served up Hamilton's second sacrifice fly of the day.
The Rangers fell silent offensively after that, with Oliver, Justin Speier (two scoreless innings) and Jason Bulger shutting them down.
The Angels' final threat came in the seventh when singles by Figgins and Abreu had runners at the corners with one out, but Torii Hunter banged into a double play started by Kinsler.
"I really felt we swung the bats well today," Scioscia said. "I thought we had five or six balls we squared up. A couple of double-play [balls] were hit hard."
C.J. Wilson breezed through a perfect ninth for his second save.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.