Lackey helps Sox stay on a nice roll
ANAHEIM, Calif. — As you would expect, Red Sox manager Terry Francona is an avid sports fan. He follows the Celtics closely, has a fantasy football team, and is conversant in college football and basketball.
But when the Sox started the season with 10 losses in 12 games, Francona clicked his television over to The History Channel. Better to learn something about the ancient Greeks than be reminded of how historically bad his team was.
Those days are over. The resurgent Red Sox completed a four-game sweep of the Angels yesterday with a 7-0 victory. It was their eighth victory in nine games.
Go back to ESPN, Terry. The coast is clear.
John Lackey continued what has been a remarkable run for Sox starters, scattering six singles over eight innings against his former team. The starters are 7-1 with an 0.88 earned run average over the last nine games, none allowing more than two earned runs.
“Literally everybody in the rotation is pitching well,’’ closer Jonathan Papelbon said. “That’s how you win games.’’
The Angels were 12-6 and leading the American League West when the Sox arrived. They scored five runs in the series, none in the final 19 innings, as the Sox recorded back-to-back shutouts for the first time since June 19-20, 2007, in Atlanta.
The Red Sox are 13-1 against the Angels since the start of last season, outscoring them, 88-41. That includes a 7-0 record at Angel Stadium. The Sox had not swept a four-game series here since 1980.
Lackey (2-2) walked one, hit one, and struck out six. He is 4-0 with a 2.45 ERA in four starts against the Angels since joining the Red Sox as a free agent before last season.
“I thought he was tremendous,’’ Francona said.
Angels starter Matt Palmer (1-1) lasted only five innings, allowing four runs on six hits and two walks.
The Red Sox wasted little time building a lead. After a rare Southern California rain delay of five whole minutes, Jacoby Ellsbury started the game with a double to right field. He scored on a double to right-center by a simmering Adrian Gonzalez.
After Kevin Youkilis walked, David Ortiz’s hard single to left-center drove in another run. Mike Cameron’s fielder’s choice scored Youkilis.
Lacked walked to the mound with a 3-0 lead and used that to his advantage, turning the Angels’ aggressiveness against them. Of the first 18 outs Lackey recorded, eight were on fly balls.
Lackey went to a three-ball count only three times total.
“They came out swinging,’’ Lackey said. “Those guys know me and know I throw strikes. They were looking to get some hits early. I got fortunate, a couple of balls were hit hard to the outfield for some outs. Then I got into a rhythm and started getting some grounders and things started flowing a little bit.’’
As Lackey rocked the Angels to sleep, the Sox kept attacking.
Marco Scutaro, who started in place of Jed Lowrie, singled with one out in the fifth. He took third on a hit-and-run single by Ellsbury and scored on a sacrifice fly to left field by Dustin Pedroia.
Carl Crawford didn’t have the biggest hit of the game, but his two-run homer off Hisanori Takahashi in the sixth inning was the most satisfying in that it was his first as a member of the Red Sox.
“About time,’’ Crawford said when he arrived in the dugout and was mobbed by teammates.
Crawford had two hits to improve his batting average to .171, his highest since the first week of the season.
There were many Red Sox fans in the crowd of 35,107. They chanted “Sweep, sweep, sweep’’ in the ninth inning.
Gonzalez was a voice of reason during the early skid, saying daily the Sox were too talented to stay down for long. In a span of 10 days, he has been proven right.
“That’s the way I felt,’’ he said. “I knew what this team was capable of doing. One little rut wasn’t going to change who we are as a team. Now we need to keep this up. We’ll be fine.’’
The team is off today then starts a three-game series in Baltimore tomorrow. At 10-11, the Red Sox are speeding in the right direction.
“We dug ourselves a hole. Now we’re trying to dig out of it,’’ Francona said. “It’s kind of like a hitter with a low batting average but feels good about himself. We’re starting to do some things better.’’