ANAHEIM, Calif. -- John Lackey would have needed to pitch a no-hitter to outdo his previous outing. He wasn't that far off.
Lackey threw his second consecutive shutout Friday night with a five-hitter and the Los Angeles Angels picked up where they left off before the All-Star break with a 4-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Friday night.
"Once he gets on one of his rolls he can be dynamite -- which he is right now," said Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon, who returned to Anaheim for the first time since ending a 31-year association with the Angels' organization on Nov. 15 to take the Devil Rays job. "He's on top of his game."
Vladimir Guerrero was 3-for-4 with a tiebreaking home run for the two-time defending AL West champions. The Angels were nine games under .500 and a season-worst seven games out of first place on June 30, but are 9-1 since then and only 2 1/2 games behind the division leaders. The shutout was their fourth in nine games, one more than they had through their first 80 contests.
Lackey (8-5) won his fourth straight start and lowered his ERA to 2.68, second-best in the AL behind Francisco Liriano's 2.12 mark for Minnesota. It was the fifth shutout and eighth complete game in 135 career starts for the right-hander, who entered with a major league-best .195 opponents batting average.
It's the third time Lackey has won four straight decisions during his five-year career, and the first time he's accomplished it in a span of fewer than seven starts.
"I'm pretty confident right now and I like my chances when I go out there," said Lackey, who got Jorge Cantu to ground into a game-ending double play with two on. "My stuff's been good and I've been able to locate pretty much everything. I used my breaking pitches a little more tonight than I did in Oakland, and my cutter was pretty good."
Lackey walked two and tied a career high with 10 strikeouts, including all three batters in the fourth. He became the first Angels pitcher to pitch back-to-back shutouts since Mark Langston did it in June 1992, and first on the staff to strike out at least 10 in three straight outings since Langston in June 1990.
"I don't go looking for strikeouts unless there's a runner on third with one out or something like that," Lackey said. "Usually when I get to two strikes, I might take one shot at it and then just try to get the guy out."
The lanky Texan extended his scoreless streak to 27 innings, including the one-hit shutout at Oakland last Friday in which he retired his final 27 batters after giving up a leadoff double to Mark Kotsay.
Lackey started this one by walking Julio Lugo and worked with runners on base in each of the first three innings. But center fielder Chone Figgins robbed Cantu of extra bases in the first with a diving catch in left-center, and Lackey induced double-play grounders by Jonny Gomes and Damon Hollins in the second and third innings.
"Usually when a guy hits an off-speed pitch, it usually has backspin on it. So the ball just kind of hung up there a little bit and I had a chance to get a glove under it," Figgins said of his run-saving circus catch. "But that was a tough one."
The Devil Rays got only one runner as far as third base. That was in the sixth, when Lugo beat out an infield single, and stole second and third with Carl Crawford at the plate. But Crawford grounded out to second base with the infield playing in, and Lackey struck out Rocco Baldelli for the third straight time.
"I thought we had a chance to get him early. But once he settled down, it was pretty much over. I could tell by the look on his face and the down-angle fastball," Maddon said.
Jae Seo (0-3) allowed two runs and seven hits over six innings in his first career appearance against the Angels. It was the right-hander's third start for the Devil Rays since his June 27 trade from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Guerrero, who homered in Tuesday's All-Star game, led off the sixth inning with his 19th of the regular season. It left him one RBI short of 1,000 for his career.
Maddon has continued his practice of putting a "thought for the day" at the bottom of each day's lineup card. For his return to Angel Stadium, he wrote: "Leaders don't create followers -- they create more leaders." ... Lackey threw 107 pitches, two fewer than in his one-hitter. ... Tampa Bay All-Star LHP Scott Kazmir, scheduled to pitch on Saturday, was moved back to Tuesday because of a stiff neck. James Shields was bumped up a day to make the start