10/17/09 1:10 AM ET
Lackey keeps Yanks close, gets little help
Shaky defense, patient Bombers make ace work in Game 1
By Tim Britton / MLB.com
John Lackey was good on Friday night in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium, but against these Yankees -- and Sabathia in particular -- good wasn't going to cut it.
In Los Angeles' 4-1 loss to New York, Lackey yielded four runs (two earned) on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings -- a pedestrian line by any standards, especially his. But in his defense, Lackey's undoing could be traced more to the mistakes of, well, his defense.
Three Angels errors, combined with a lack of communication on a popup, resulted in two unearned runs, the first putting Los Angeles -- and Lackey -- in an early hole.
"With the defense ... the way we cracked the door open for him, I thought he did as well as he could," manager Mike Scioscia said. "It's a tough lineup when you have to throw more pitches, face extra hitters."
On a frigid autumn night at Yankee Stadium, Lackey was never allowed to breathe easy. Derek Jeter led off the home first with a single, and the Yankees had Lackey's back against the wall for much of the night. New York put at least two men on base in five of six innings against Lackey.
"It was a grind out there, for sure," Lackey said. "I was pretty much in the stretch from the get-go -- and stayed there."
The third out in an inning was often Lackey's toughest to record. The Yankees collected five hits, two walks and two RBIs against Lackey with two outs.
The Angels' trouble closing out innings manifested itself early, when Hideki Matsui's two-out popup fell near Chone Figgins and Erick Aybar. Johnny Damon scored from second on what was ruled an RBI single for Matsui.
Matsui's 95-footer was one of six opposite-field singles for the Yankees against Lackey. Defined this season by their power -- they set a team record with 244 homers -- the Yankees instead settled for base hits the other way and taking the extra base on a night the wind was howling in from the outfield. New York's two-out success prolonged innings and drove up Lackey's pitch count. The right-hander departed with two outs in the sixth having thrown 114 pitches -- or one more than Sabathia required to complete eight frames.
"They're a veteran team, and they made an adjustment," Lackey said. "They didn't exactly drive the ball, but they got runners on base and were able to get a couple of big hits."
The Yankees, then, were able to do against Lackey what the Angels couldn't against Sabathia. And while both pitchers may be known as aces, there was still a discernible gap between them on Friday. "[Lackey] did a great job," Figgins said afterward. "Sabathia did a better job."
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.