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September 12, 2009

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Angels' Lackey blanks Seattle

THEY dress side by side in the clubhouse when the Los Angeles Angels are at home -- John Lackey, Scott Kazmir and Jered Weaver. The trio of pitchers appeared to be playing their own version of "Can You Top This?" during a three-game sweep of Seattle.

Lackey completed the job on Thursday night with a 3-0 victory -- going the distance for the first time in 23 starts this season with a five-hitter and seven strikeouts. The Mariners finished the series 0-for-18 with runners in scoring position, and Ichiro Suzuki was an uncharacteristic 1-for-14 with four strikeouts.

"A little healthy competition in the clubhouse is fun, and it's good for the team, for sure," Lackey said. "I don't want one of those guys to one-up me. I want to do a little bit better than them. But when they're out there, I'm the biggest cheerleader they've got."

Lackey (10-7) began the season on the disabled list for the second straight year, missing the first 34 games -- about eight starts -- because of a forearm strain. Since his return on May 16, he has a 3.53 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 155 2/3 innings.

In his last three starts, Lackey has allowed one run in 26 innings. Four of his eight career shutouts have come against the Mariners, including the last three. His previous one was on August 27, 2007, at Seattle.

"He's pitching great baseball," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

"And for him to get a complete game is important to us, especially at this time. It shows that his stamina is where it needs to be. He finished strong tonight, and he's got a lot of gas in his tank. So hopefully, he's going to finish this month strong and hopefully beyond."

Elsewhere in the American League, it was: Blue Jays 3, Twins 2; and Royals 7, Tigers 4.

In the National League, it was: Rockies 5, Reds 1; Nationals 8, Phillies 7; Marlins 13, Mets 4; and Braves 9, Astros 7.

In Anaheim, California, Angels outfielder Torii Hunter went 2-for-4 and smacked a two-run home run in the fourth inning against starter Ryan Rowland-Smith, who threw seven innings and allowed three runs while striking out five.

"I've been hitting a lot of line drives and ground balls. I finally got some lift on a fastball," said Hunter. "I might have found something tonight, physically."

Erick Aybar drove in a run with a double in the seventh for the Angels (84-55), who increased their AL West lead to five games over idle Texas, while Mariners (72-69) third baseman Bill Hall, who was traded by the Milwaukee Brewers last month, had three of his team's five hits.

Suzuki, the two-time AL batting champ, was 0-for-4 and still needs four hits to reach the 200 mark for the ninth consecutive season, which would break the major league mark he shares with Wee Willie Keeler (1894-1901).

"He's a great hitter, so you've got to show him a lot of different things," Lackey said. "You can expand the zone a little bit on him, for sure. He likes to swing and he doesn't take a lot of walks, so there's ways around it."


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