- MLB Playoffs 2002 - Calm, cool Lackey looks anything but a rookie

Sunday, October 27
Updated: October 29, 8:43 AM ET
Calm, cool Lackey looks anything but a rookie

By David Kull

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- John Lackey, meet The Babe.

No, not that Babe, the one who routinely swatted majestic home runs in Yankee pinstripes and rendered dead the dead-ball era of baseball.

John Lackey
Rookie John Lackey pitched like a seasoned veteran.

Lackey became only the second rookie in World Series history to start and win Game 7. The other? Pittsburgh's Babe Adams in 1909.

Six other rookie pitchers over the past 93 years -- including one Game 8 starter -- had tried and failed to double the size of Adams' exclusive club. But then along came Lackey, a tall Texan with a cowboy's drawl, a Gomer Pyle smile and a bull rider's heart.

Pitching on only three days' rest, Lackey corralled the Giants' bats over five innings. Allowing four hits and one run over five innings, he officially produced the best start in a World Series nearly bereft of starting pitching excellence.

Lackey's effort may seem modest in comparison to Adams, who pitched a complete-game shutout as the Pirates defeated Ty Cobb's Tigers 8-0. But don't tell that to Lackey, who was too caught up in the on-field euphoria to care if anyone was referring to Babe Adams, Babe Ruth or any other Babe, even those cavorting on one of Southern California's many sandy beaches.

"I've been waiting 24 years for this," said Lackey, who turned 24 on Wednesday, the day of his Game 4 start, which resulted in a no-decision. "There is definitely going to be some celebrating going on."

Rookies in Game 7
Angels right-hander John Lackey became the eighth rookie to start -- and only the second to win -- the decisive, winner-take-all game of the World Series. Here's what happened to the eight:

Babe Adams, 1909 Pirates
Blanked the Tigers on six hits for his third win of the Series.

Hugh Bedient, 1912 Red Sox
In Game 8 (there had been a tied), allowed just one run in seven innings. Picked up a no-decision as Joe Wood got the win in relief when Boston won in 10 innings.

Spec Shea, 1947 Yankees
Had won two games earlier, but lasted just 1 1/3 innings. Yankees won anyway, 5-2, as Joe Page tossed five scoreless innings in relief.

Joe Black, 1952 Dodgers
Started just twice during regular season, but was making third start of Series. Took the loss (to the Yankees) with three runs in 5 1/3 innings.

Mel Stottlemyre, 1964 Yankees
With Whitey Ford hurt, Stottlemyre went on two days' rest. Gave up three runs in four innings and got the loss against St. Louis.

Joe Magrane, 1987 Cardinals
Gave up two runs in 4 1/3 innings and had a no-decision as the Twins won the Series.

Jaret Wright, 1997 Indians
Gave up one run in 6 1/3 innings and was in line for the win until the Marlins rallied.

John Lackey, 2002 Angels
Allowed one run in five innings to win his first game of the Series.

Before this season, Lackey said the biggest game he ever pitched came in the Junior College World Series for Grayson County College in 1999. He wasn't even on the Angels' Opening Day roster, instead starting the se ason at Triple-A Salt Lake.

But Saturday night, he got the word from manager Mike Scioscia that he would be starting Game 7. That JC World Series start will need to be bumped down a few notches on Lackey's resume.

"He said, 'We're going to go with you,' and I said, 'Good. I want it,' " said Lackey, who was 2-0 with a 2.42 ERA in the postseason.

Showing veteran confidence rather than rookie nerves, Lackey coasted through an easy 1-2-3 first inning before running into trouble in the second inning. With one out, he allowed singles to Benito Santiago and J.T. Snow before Reggie Sanders' sacrifice fly scored Santiago with the game's first run.

Then after the Angels responded with four runs in second and third innings without an assist from the Rally Monkey, Lackey went back to shutting down the Giants.

He even did the unthinkable -- pitch to Barry Bonds -- and survived nearly untattered, getting Bonds to line out to second base in the second inning and then yielding a harmless infield single in the fourth.

But even more important was Lackey's ability to blank the Giants' first three hitters -- Kenny Lofton, Rich Aurilia and Jeff Kent. The three hitters combined to go 0-for-7 against Lackey, giving Bonds no opportunities to do any damage with runners on.

"He was hitting the spots," said catcher Bengie Molina. "He was hitting the corners, mixing the curveball in and the slider. That's why he had a good game."

Lackey escaped trouble in the fourth inning, when the Giants had runners on first and second with one out. And then in the fifth, he got the first two outs before walking Lofton.

Lackey's first walk prompted another walk, from pitching coach Bud Black from the dugout to the mound. It also led to the first sign of movement in the Angels' bullpen.

"I said, 'John, you are throwing a hell of a game,'" Black said. " 'Take one pitch at a time, don't get ahead of yourself. Make a pitch right here and get back in the dugout.'"

And one pitch is all he made. Aurilia flew out to right field. Threat averted. Inning over. And Lackey's work was done after 86 pitches.

"We didn't really have him on the ropes much," said Giants manager Dusty Baker. "I kept watching his pitch count. I knew they were going to have to go to the bullpen soon. When he gave them the fifth, that really sort of got them in the flow of (Brendan) Donnelly for two, (Francisco) Rodriguez , then (Troy Percival)."

Donnelly and Rodriguez? They are rookies just like Lackey, two others who started their seasons in the minor leagues.

For their splendid postseason efforts, the three have earned a spot on next season's Opening Day roster. For Lackey, a spot in the rotation is secure, considering he had the best ERA of any Angels' starter -- by far -- in the postseason.

Plus, it helps being the only starting pitcher in Angels' history to win Game 7 of the World Series.

"I'm a long way from Salt Lake," said Lackey.

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