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AUTUMN MAGIC ALL OVER AGAIN LACKEY, SPIEZIO SHOW FALL FORM IN ANGELS' BLOWOUT OF NEW YORK ANGELS 10, NEW YORK 3.

Byline: Gabe Lacques Staff Writer

NEW YORK - John Lackey and Scott Spiezio were October heroes turned spring stragglers, their sudden and enduring woes a mystery to Angels fans wondering what happened to the men who won the most important game and hit the most important home run in franchise history.

Tuesday night, on the Yankee Stadium stage where the Angels launched their postseason run last autumn, Lackey and Spiezio found themselves. And how.

With the best pitcher in the major leagues pitted against them, Lackey and Spiezio showed glimpses of their old glory, with Lackey getting his first victory in a month and Spiezio breaking an 0-for-25 funk with two home runs, the latter a grand slam that polished off a 10-3 victory over the New York Yankees.

Lackey, the winner of Game 7 of the World Series, came in having given up the most earned runs in the American League, a three-inning, six-run trouncing at the hands of the Yankees last month the most unsightly outing of all.

Tuesday, he responded by throwing four hitless innings at the outset, and he held the major league's most vaunted offense to just four hits and a two-run home run by Robin Ventura over six innings.

Spiezio, whose Game 6 homer sparked the Angels' Series-saving comeback win, was hitless since April 29, a slump he said ``felt like I was 0 for 90, 0 for 2003.''

Spiezio's confidence was admittedly at a low point and his average down to .180 by the fourth inning Tuesday, when he stepped in against Mike Mussina, who had seven wins in seven starts and a major league-best 1.70 ERA.

No matter. Spiezio's next swing produced a flyball that eventually met the facade of the upper deck in right field, giving the Angels a 3-0 lead.

In the ninth, trailing 6-3, the Yankees intentionally walked Brad Fullmer to get to Spiezio. Had Spiezio been doing well, he might have been thinking grand slam.

Instead, he said his immediate thoughts were to not strike out, or hit into a double play, which he did his previous at-bat.

``You're never thinking negative things when you're hitting well,'' Spiezio said. ``To think negatively is something I tell myself to never do. It's something you have to break free of.''

Maybe his grand slam, which came off reliever Juan Acevedo, will put some of those thoughts behind.

``Scotty's been working his butt off,'' said leadoff hitter David Eckstein, who had four hits and reached base five times in six plate appearances. ``One thing that's good about Scott as a teammate is he didn't let it show. The character of a person comes out in tough times.''

Character is a word thrown around a lot with Lackey (2-3), who insisted he wasn't troubled by his ERA, 7.38 coming into Tuesday, or the 11 first-inning runs that put him into a hole in all but one of his starts this season. Lack of confidence, he has insisted, would never be a problem.

So when Lackey threw five balls to start the game, sending the 37,750 celebrating the return of Derek Jeter into a frenzy, he didn't panic. Instead, he got Jeter to pop out, starting a string of 12 consecutive batters retired.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Hideki Matsui's single in the fifth inning didn't do much to help the Yankees' chances in a 10-3 loss to the Angels on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium.

Osamu Honda/Associated Press
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 14, 2003
Words:577
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