Angels turn tide on Red Sox in Game 1
Torii's homer backs Lackey as Halos send message
ANAHEIM -- Two prominent figures rule the Angels' clubhouse. One is John Lackey, and the other is Torii Hunter.Both alpha males came up huge for the Angels in Game 1 of the 2009 American League Division Series, doing their parts on Thursday night to forge for their team a bold, new October identity and path.
A scoreless duel between Lackey and Lester lasted until the bottom of the fifth, when Hunter finished what Erick Aybar's leadoff double started.After Chone Figgins bunted Aybar to third, Bobby Abreu worked Lester for his third of four walks, tying a Division Series record. Hunter looked at strike one and then unloaded on a 95-mph heater, sending it soaring toward the rock pile in left-center. "I left the ball up, and he hit it," Lester said. "The thought process behind it was good. I felt like that was the right pitch to throw, trying to get a double play. I elevated it a little and he hit it out. What can you do?" Hunter was so immersed in the moment, and so pumped with adrenaline, he wasn't sure where the pitch was when he unloaded. "It was a two-seam fastball. I hit a mistake, I guess. I usually pop it up or ground out. I closed my eyes and swung. I didn't know where it was. "Lester is nasty, man, one of the best lefties in the game. He brings that serious heat and then that slider down at your feet. He had a lot of guys off balance." Dependable Darren Oliver got the final five outs without allowing a baserunner. Lackey departed having yielded four hits while walking one and striking out four. His 7 1/3 innings exceeded by one out his previous postseason high. He shut out the Twins through seven innings in Game 4 of the 2002 ALCS, 15 days before taking Game 7 of the Fall Classic against the Giants. "I still had some left," Lackey said. "But you can't go wrong with D.O. He's had a great year. It was a good move." Boston's disciplined hitters made him work for his early outs, running up his pitch count, but Lackey's fastball was moving and he was putting it where he wanted. "Lot of life on his fastball," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "Looked like he was moving [it] both ways. He threw enough breaking balls we had to respect that, and he was able to locate his fastball again with two different directions. He was good. He was real good." Lackey was thrilled when Hunter went deep, but he knew his work was far from over. "It's nice to know in the back of your mind you have a few runs," Lackey said, "but you can't relax with a lead. That's the last thing to do. They've got too many hitters in that lineup to relax." After Lackey and Lester maintained a tension with their duel, the big crowd erupted as Hunter's majestic drive cleared the wall. "He crushed it -- no doubt about it," Lackey said. "We scored some runs and the guys played great defense. It was fun. Regarded as the club's unofficial captain by teammates, Hunter took a swift tour of the bases and was within a few steps of Abreu when he reached home plate. It was Hunter's fourth postseason home run in exactly 100 at-bats and his first since the 2006 ALDS, when his Twins were swept by the Athletics. After Juan Rivera laced a two-out double, Morales was robbed of an RBI single by Alex Gonzalez on a diving stab at shortstop. The Boston defense came up big for Lester again in the sixth, when center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury laid out to steal an RBI triple -- and maybe an inside-the-park homer -- from Figgins on a twisting drive to center. The Angels loaded the bases with none out in the seventh against Ramon Ramirez, who hit Hunter with a fastball in the ribs. "I don't think he was throwing at me intentionally," Hunter said. "You're not going to put a guy on in a playoff game. It just ran away from him and got me." A rare double-play grounder by Rivera, third to home and back to third, had reliever Takashi Saito one out away from escaping before Morales delivered. The team leader with 108 RBIs, Morales stroked his two-out single to left-center, scoring Vladimir Guerrero. Rivera scored when Bay's throw got past Mike Lowell at third. Lackey, 0-3 in six postseason starts since that '02 Fall Classic finale, ran into trouble with two out in the sixth on Dustin Pedroia's single and a walk to Victor Martinez. But Figgins, with the runners moving on a full count, handled Kevin Youkilis' chopper for a force at third. "Figgy's been picking it all year," Lackey said. "He should win the Gold Glove. That was a tougher play than it looked." Angels manager Mike Scioscia applauded his pitcher and his support system. "We played good defense tonight," Scioscia said. "John made pitches, and that's a long way to pitch against that lineup, to get us 22 outs like that. That's a tremendous effort."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.