Aneheim, Calif. With Torii Hunter hitting the rocks and John Lackey rolling through the Boston lineup, the Los Angeles Angels finally got on top of the Red Sox in the playoffs.
Lackey pitched into the eighth inning, and Hunter hit a three-run homer off the rock pile in center field, leading the Angels to a 5-0 victory over their longtime playoff nemesis in their first-round opener Thursday night.
Hunter’s shot broke open a scoreless game and appeared to topple any mental barriers Los Angeles might have faced against the Red Sox, who ended three of the Angels’ past five seasons in the division series, winning nine of 10 games. Boston didn’t manage an extra-base hit while getting shut out in the playoffs for the first time since Game 2 of the 1995 division series against Cleveland.
Game 2 is tonight at Angel Stadium, with Boston’s Josh Beckett facing Jered Weaver.
The AL West champion Angels snapped a six-game home playoff losing streak behind Lackey, who dominated his first playoff victory since 2002 with fine control and good defense behind him. After striking out four and allowing four singles over 71⁄3 innings, he doffed his cap to a standing ovation.
Jon Lester allowed four hits over six innings for the Red Sox, who had won five straight playoff series openers. Lester wasn’t as sharp as Lackey during just his second loss since July 19, but he avoided trouble until the fifth.
Erick Aybar started the rally with a leadoff double down the left-field line. After Bobby Abreu walked, Hunter smashed Lester’s second pitch off the Disneyland-esque artificial rock pile, with fireworks bursting from it at the moment of impact.
The homer was the fourth career playoff shot for Hunter, the Angels’ unofficial team captain and clubhouse leader who just finished one of his best regular seasons.
Kendry Morales added a late run-scoring single, and Abreu drew four walks for the Angels.