ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — John Lackey hadn’t won a playoff game in seven years, not since he clinched the Angels’ only World Series title as an excitable rookie.

During Los Angeles’ slump-snapping shutout of the Red Sox, the Angels’ veteran ace showed Boston just how much he’s grown.

Lackey pitched superbly into the eighth inning of Boston’s first scoreless playoff loss in 14 years, and Torii Hunter’s three-run homer in the fifth inning propelled the Angels to a 5-0 victory over their longtime playoff nemesis in their first-round opener Thursday night.

The AL West champion Angels snapped a six-game home playoff losing streak behind Lackey, who used fine control and good defense to keep Boston off the playoff scoreboard for the first time in 70 games.

“That’s what Lackey is going to do: put the ball in good zones and make teams dig it out,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “John made pitches, and that’s a long way to pitch against that lineup. To get us 22 outs like that, that’s a tremendous effort.”

After striking out four and allowing four singles while rarely even facing trouble, Lackey doffed his cap to a standing ovation.

“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.”

Darren Oliver finished up with 1 2-3 innings of hitless relief. Boston didn’t even manage an extra-base hit in the first scoreless pitching performance in the Angels’ 53-game postseason history.

“(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.”

Game 2 is Friday night at Angel Stadium, with Boston’s Josh Beckett facing Jered Weaver.

While Lackey kept Boston off the postseason scoreboard for the first time since Game 2 of the 1995 division series against Cleveland, Hunter’s shot broke open a scoreless game. It also seemed 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.

“Whatever the hex is, I guess somebody un-hexed it,” Angels leadoff hitter Chone Figgins 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.”

Jon Lester allowed four hits over six innings for the wild-card Red Sox, who had won five straight playoff series openers. Boston’s hitting was uniformly poor, including an 0-for-11 day by its 3-4-5 hitters – including David Ortiz, who went 0 for 4 to end a personal seven-game hitting streak at Angel Stadium in the postseason since 2002.

Lester wasn’t as sharp as Lackey during his second loss since July 19, but he avoided trouble until the fifth, when his 15-inning scoreless streak in the division series ended.

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 for his fourth postseason homer.

“That was huge because of the way Lackey was pitching. Three runs looked like a lot,” Boston manager Terry Francona said.

Kendry Morales 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 Red Sox, 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,” Jason Bay 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.”

Lackey had to escape just two jams in the first six innings, stranding two runners in the third on Dustin Pedroia’s fly to right before getting Kevin Youkilis’ 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 Juan Rivera, who advanced to third and then scampered home when Bay’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.

Neither pitcher faced much trouble until the third, when Lester issued back-to-back walks to load the bases before striking out Vladimir Guerrero on three pitches.

The Red Sox couldn’t get a break from first base umpire CB Bucknor, who twice called Howie Kendrick 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 David Ortiz’s division series record, set Oct. 5, 2007, against the Angels. … Lackey thought he had ended the third inning with Jacoby Ellsbury’s grounder back to the mound, but plate umpire Joe West made a late call of catcher’s interference, well after broadcaster TBS had already gone to commercials. Lackey still coolly retired Pedroia.


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