Lackey leans back as offense thrives

Lackey leans back as offense thrives

ANAHEIM -- Alone at the top one game into the second half are the Angels, their record the best in Major League Baseball.

With an offensive eruption flowing primarily from Garret Anderson's homer, three singles and five runs batted in, the Angels thumped the Red Sox, 11-3, on Friday night in front of 44,260 at Angel Stadium.

John Lackey, casting aside past difficulties with the reigning World Series champions, went seven innings to claim the win, holding the Sox to five hits and three earned runs while striking out six -- including career whiff No. 1,000, producing a standing ovation.

"I had no idea," Lackey said sheepishly of the ovation, which caught him off guard.

His focus was on putting fastballs and curves where he wanted and applauding a defense that made a series of superb plays.

Each of the four infielders -- Chone Figgins, Maicer Izturis, Howie Kendrick and Casey Kotchman -- frustrated Red Sox hitters with their gloves. Izturis made three highlight-reel plays in one of the most complete performances of his career.

"Great defense the whole game, great start to the second half," said Lackey, the sixth pitcher in franchise history to scale that 1,000-K mountain.

Great offense, too. Anderson led the assault with an RBI single in the first, a go-ahead solo homer in the fourth, an RBI single in the fifth and a two-run single in the sixth.

"The [All-Star] break was good for me," Anderson said, hoping to match a highly productive 2007 second half. "I was able to relax and recharge a little."

The Angels pushed their American League West lead to seven games over Oakland and 8 1/2 over Texas. The Rays, with a win over the Blue Jays, seized a half-game lead over the Red Sox in the AL East.

"We just have to keep handling our business," Lackey said.

The Angels busted open a one-run game with four unearned runs in the fifth, sending Clay Buchholtz reeling to his fifth loss in seven decisions.

With two on and two outs, shortstop Alex Cora bobbled Torii Hunter's slow roller for an error, allowing the first run to score. Anderson's RBI single ended Buchholz's night, and David Aardsma yielded a two-run single to Kendrick.

Doubles by Kotchman and Izturis and RBI singles by Vladimir Guerrero and Anderson gave Lackey a 3-0 lead in the first inning.

Kevin Youkilis' two-run homer in the second and Manny Ramirez's solo shot in the fourth brought the Red Sox even, but Anderson gave the lead back to Lackey with a solo blast to right in the fourth, his ninth homer of the season.

Hitting sixth in the order, Anderson has delivered 14 RBIs in his past 11 games.

"One advantage to hitting down in the order is I'm able to come to the clubhouse and watch the first inning, see what the guy is trying to do," Anderson said. "It looked like Buchholz was trying to establish his fastball early in counts ... and when he tried to sneak a fastball middle in on me [in the fourth], I was able to get through it.

"With some early runs, Lackey was able to relax and throw strikes. It allowed him to settle in and put up zeros." The one pitch Lackey regretted was the 3-1 fastball that Youkilis lifted inside the left-field pole.

"I honestly would only take one pitch back -- the ball Youkilis hit was a mistake I left over the middle," Lackey said. "The ball Manny hit was a first pitch. I'll throw it again and take my chances."

Lackey turned it over to Justin Speier and Darren O'Day for an inning each of scoreless relief.

The colorful, unpredictable Ramirez provided some comic relief for the fans during a three-run Angels sixth inning.

Izturis followed Figgins' leadoff double with a blooper into shallow left. Ramirez came charging but pulled up when he realized he couldn't reach the ball. It rolled past him, and as the left fielder tried to find it -- lodged somewhere beneath his body -- Izturis steamed in with an RBI triple.

"It looked like he rolled back over on top of it," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "The one thing they do, they hit it, they run and they keep running."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he didn't know what happened with Ramirez, but he liked how Izturis reacted.

"Izzy had a terrific game," Scioscia said. "He ran that out and got a triple out of it."

The Angels worked counts on Buchholz. A 12-pitch walk by Hunter preceding Anderson's RBI single in the first.

"That was a tough pitch to get a walk on," Scioscia said. "Torii laid off some good changeups. We had some really good at-bats."

Lackey wasn't overly impressed with his 1,000th strikeout. Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan -- Lackey's favorite player growing up in Abilene, Texas -- produced 2,416 of his all-time record 5,714 lifetime strikeouts in an Angels uniform.

"I'm a long way from Nolan," Lackey said, laughing.

Lackey came into the game with a 1-6 career record and 6.27 ERA against the Red Sox. This was the first time he's beaten the Sox at home in five attempts.

Duly impressed, Francona called Lackey "a tremendous pitcher."

Looking to claim their first season series from the Red Sox since 2001, the Angels have taken three of four games from the reigning World Series champions.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.