ANAHEIM, Calif.(AP) Right when
's three-run homer hit the rock pile beyond center field at Angel Stadium, two bursts of fireworks shot up from the artificial
The moment hardly needed the pyrotechnic punctuation. After several years of playoff frustrations against the
Boston Red Sox
, the Angels finally have a breakthrough.
pitched into the eighth inning of his first postseason victory since 2002, and Hunter's big hit in the fifth inning sent the
Angels to a 5-0 victory over their longtime playoff nemesis in their first-round opener Thursday night.
While Lackey's steady brilliance kept Boston off the postseason scoreboard for the first time in 14 years, Hunter's shot broke
open a scoreless game. It also seemed to topple any mental barriers Los Angeles might have faced against the
, who ended three of the Angels' past five seasons in the division series, winning nine of 10 games.
''Whatever the hex is, I guess somebody un-hexed it,'' Angels leadoff hitter
said. ''We've played tight games with them before, and they came out on top. But we had the ace going on the mound, and Torii
got a big hit.''
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. The shutout was the first in the Angels' 53-game postseason history.
Game 2 is Friday night at Angel Stadium, with Boston's
The AL West champion Angels snapped a six-game home playoff losing streak behind Lackey, who used fine control and good defense
to win in the postseason for the first time since Game 7 of the World Series seven years ago.
''(Lackey) went out there and set the tone early,'' Hunter said. ''Man, we were so pumped up from then on. I'm excited about
this start today.''
After striking out four and allowing four singles over 7 1-3 innings, Lackey doffed his cap to a standing ovation.
finished up with 1 2-3 innings of hitless relief.
''Even in the bullpen, I knew my arm was feeling good,'' said Lackey, who pitched just once in the previous 11 days. ''The
extra rest that I had really helped me out. I really felt like my arm was pretty live tonight. ... Our fans get dogged for
not being loud enough, but they brought it tonight, and that ovation I got coming off the mound meant a lot to me.''
allowed four hits over six innings for the wild-card
, who had won five straight playoff series openers. Lester wasn't as sharp as Lackey during his second loss since July 19,
but he avoided trouble until the fifth.
started the rally with a leadoff double down the left-field line. After
walked, Hunter smashed Lester's second pitch off the Disneyland-esque artificial rock pile for his fourth postseason homer.
''That was huge because of the way Lackey was pitching. Three runs looked like a lot,'' Boston manager
added a late run-scoring single and Abreu drew four walks for the Angels, who had lost six straight home playoff games. Although
they've made six of the past eight postseasons, the Angels lost three of four last fall to the
, who won the World Series after bouncing Los Angeles from the division series in 2004 and 2007.
''I think by and large we're a pretty good offensive team, and Lackey shut us down with four singles,''
said. ''Four singles and three errors isn't going to win too many ballgames, so you tip your hat a little bit. But I think
we can be better.''
Boston took the first two games at Angel Stadium in last season's division series, including Lester's 4-1 win over Lackey
in the opener. In fact, the Angels had lost 12 of their 13 playoff games against Boston since the infamous Game 5 of the 1986
AL championship series, won in extra innings by the
after a ninth-inning rally capped by
Lackey had to escape just two jams in the first six innings, stranding two runners in the third on
's fly to right before getting
' grounder to third with two on in the sixth.
Los Angeles padded its lead in the seventh on Morales' run-scoring hit and a heads-up play by
, who advanced to third and then scampered home when
's throw from left field got away. J.D. Drew threw out Morales at the plate moments later to end the inning.
''We gave them some extra opportunities,'' Francona said.
Despite the Angels' ominous playoff history against the
, the noisy Orange County crowd didn't seem to be anticipating disappointment while clacking its ThunderStix and easily drowning
out the surprisingly small Boston fan contingent on a slightly chilly night.
Neither pitcher faced much trouble until the third, when Lester issued back-to-back walks to load the bases before striking
on three pitches.
couldn't get a break from first base umpire CB Bucknor, who twice called
safe after Youkilis snagged wide throws. On both plays, in the fourth and sixth inning, replays appeared to contradict Bucknor's
calls - but the Angels did nothing with either opportunity.
NOTES: Francona didn't appear in pregame introductions because he wasn't feeling well. He still managed the game. ... Abreu's
four walks tied
's division series record, set Oct. 5, 2007, against the Angels. ... Lackey thought he had ended the third inning with
's grounder back to the mound, but plate umpire Joe West made a very late call of catcher's interference, well after broadcaster
TBS had already gone to commercials. Lackey still coolly retired Pedroia.