"That was another time," manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday night after Carlos Pena and Willy Aybar homered to help the defending AL champions beat Lackey and the Los Angeles Angels 9-5. "That was against the Devil Rays."
The Angels right-hander had won nine of 10 previous decisions against the Rays, though most of the damage was done before last season, when Tampa Bay dropped the "Devil" from its nickname and posted its first winning record.
"I'm not denigrating John in any way. It's just about we're a different group right now," Maddon said. "The guys here have no interest in that negative history."
Pena hit a solo homer in the third inning and Aybar added a two-run shot off Lackey (1-2) for a 9-5 lead in the fifth.
Aybar also had an RBI single during a five-run second during which the Rays began the inning with four straight hits, three of them well-placed grounders that got through the right side of the infield.
"Kind of everything that could happen wrong happened. Good pitches, they managed to get infield hits. I throw a bad pitch, and they were hitting those hard," Lackey said. "If a couple of those ground balls are at somebody, it's a different game."
The Rays, who ended a three-game skid that featured a lack of timely hitting, rallied from a 3-0 deficit to build a 7-3 lead for Jeff Niemann. But the rookie right-hander lasted just 3 2/3 innings.
Lance Cormier (1-1) pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings for the win. Jason Isringhausen, Joe Nelson and Dan Wheeler finished up, holding the Angels to one hit -- Vladimir Guerrero's ninth-inning triple -- over the last three innings.
Chone Figgins had a two-run triple for Los Angeles, but also committed a costly throwing error. Gary Matthews Jr., Bobby Abreu and Juan Rivera also drove in runs for the Angels, who stranded nine baserunners while wasting several scoring opportunities.
Coming off the best performance of his career -- a two-hit, complete-game shutout of Kansas City -- and pitching on extra rest, Niemann allowed five runs and seven hits.
"He just could not get into any kind of rhythm," Maddon said.
Aybar, Gabe Gross, Dioner Navarro and Carl Crawford drove in runs in the second inning for the Rays. A fifth run scored on a wild pitch by Lackey, who was 9-1 with a 2.36 ERA in 11 career start against Tampa Bay before Wednesday night.
Pena hit his 18th homer in the third, and the Rays went up 7-3 when Ben Zobrist scored on Figgins' two-out error. After Los Angeles pulled within two on Abreu's sacrifice fly and Rivera's RBI single in the fourth, Aybar restored the four-run lead with his fifth homer.
Lackey allowed nine runs and 11 hits, even though he felt he threw the ball well until the fifth inning.
"I definitely expect more of myself," said Lackey, who spent the first six weeks of the season on the disabled list with a strained right forearm. "I don't believe in moral victories. You either win or you lose."
Los Angeles CF Torii Hunter, slowed by a groin strain, was out of the lineup. The Angels didn't want Hunter, who will start Thursday, to play three straight days on artificial turf. ... Rays DH Pat Burrell (neck strain) could return this weekend, and SS Jason Bartlett (sprained left ankle) might be back early next week. ... Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said setup man Scot Shields' stay on the 15-day disabled list with an injured left knee remains open-ended. ... Tampa Bay LHP Scott Kazmir (right quadriceps) is scheduled to throw three innings in a simulated game Friday. If all goes well, he will pitch in a minor league game next week.