ANAHEIM, Calif. &
Dustin Pedroia's tiebreaking home run not only enabled the Boston Red Sox to avoid a three-game sweep by the Los Angeles Angels. It also helped manager Terry Francona set up his bullpen the way he wanted to for the finish.
Pedroia hit his fifth homer off the glove of left fielder Garret Anderson and Mike Lowell went 4-for-4 with three doubles and a pair of RBIs, leading the Red Sox to a 9-6 victory that slowed down the Yankees' surge in the AL East.
Hideki Okajima (3-0) pitched — 1-3 hitless innings for the victory. The rookie left-hander, who stuck out Orlando Cabrera in the sixth with the potential go-ahead run at third, has stranded 18 of his 19 inherited runners.
Eric Gagne pitched a scoreless eighth and Jonathan Papelbon a perfect ninth for his 26th save in 28 attempts.
"When Pedroia hit the ball out, it allowed us to line up the good pitchers, not overextend guys or face people we didn't want to," Francona said. "Some wins seem harder than others, and that was a tough one. Playing tied on the road is very difficult, so it's a lot better having the lead."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia praised the Red Sox bullpen afterward.
"They're tough. They can shorten the game as well as we can," he said. "They've got some guys who are having terrific seasons. They've got Okajima, they've added Gagne, they've got some other power arms and they finish off with Papelbon. It's a great bullpen."
The victory, coupled with the Yankees' 15-4 loss at Toronto, increased Boston's lead over New York to six games in the AL East. The Angels' lead over Seattle in the AL West shrunk to three games following the Mariners' 8-4 win at Baltimore.
"In a situation like that, you want to do anything you can to stop the sweep and salvage a win," J.D. Drew said. "They played good baseball against us the first two games and we weren't able to come up with any key hits. Tonight we were able to, but it was a battle all the way until we scored those last three runs."
One night after Gary Matthews Jr. robbed Boston's Coco Crisp of a home run, Anderson nearly did the same to Pedroia in the seventh inning. But the ball glanced off Anderson's glove as he made a leaping attempt in front of the bullpen, and went over the fence to give the Red Sox a 7-6 lead. Pedroia's fifth homer came on a 1-1 pitch from Justin Speier (1-3).
Boston tacked on two more in the eighth. Julio Lugo hit a sacrifice fly after Scot Shields made an errant pickoff throw to second base trying to get Crisp, and Brandon Moss scored on Shields' wild pitch.
Red Sox DH David Ortiz sat out because of a troublesome left shoulder &
the same one he injured trying to stretch a single into a double on July 20 against the White Sox at Fenway Park.
"I've been feeling pain the whole time since I injured it," said Ortiz, hitting .319 with 19 home runs and 68 RBIs after leading the AL last season with a franchise-record 54 homers. "When I swing and not make contact with a pitch, it hurts. I think this couple of days will be good for me."
Boston starter Jon Lester gave up five runs, eight hits and three walks over — 1-3 innings in the shortest of his 19 big league starts. The left-hander was on the same mound where he made his final start of last season, when he fought off back problems to beat the Angels 5-4 on Aug. 23 and run his record to 7-2.
Just nine days after that game, Lester was diagnosed with lymphoma and underwent chemotherapy before returning to the rotation July 23 with a 6-2 win at Cleveland. All four starts of his inspiring comeback have been on the road. He'll finally pitch at Fenway next Tuesday against Tampa Bay.
"He's still a young pitcher, and you try never to forget that," Francona said. "He's a work in progress, and his development got interrupted. The good thing is, he's a real hard worker, a good listener and gives you good feedback."
The Red Sox got Lester off the hook in the fifth, grabbing a 5-4 lead with a sacrifice fly by Kevin Youkilis and a two-out RBI single by Lowell that chased Angels starter Dustin Moseley. But the Angels pulled even in the bottom half on a run-scoring groundout by Matthews.
Pedroia helps Sox avert heavenly sweep, 9-6
ANAHEIM, Calif. &