ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Zack Greinke stopped worrying about his rocky start with the Los Angeles Angels when he figured it couldn’t get any worse.
Since then, Greinke and the Angels have both been plenty good enough to think this season might still have a happy ending.
Greinke yielded five hits over seven strong innings, Albert Pujols hit an early two-run double and the Angels swept their season series with Boston for the first time with a 5-2 victory over the Red Sox on Thursday night.
Greinke (3-2) was unintimidating but effective in his seventh appearance for the Angels, striking out five and limiting Boston to two runs during his third victory in four starts. The right-hander might have found his groove in Orange County after a slow start following his arrival from Milwaukee, yielding three runs in 14 2-3 innings over his last two starts.
“I was doing so bad, I figured I couldn’t do any worse,” the 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner said. “The main thing (now) is I’m not worried about messing up. … Better location, I guess that’s the main thing. I’m not leaving my mistakes over the middle of the plate.”
Mark Trumbo and pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo drove in runs in the third inning for the Angels, who stayed in the AL wild-card hunt by winning all six meetings with Boston over the past 10 days. Los Angeles has won seven of nine overall, keeping pace with Baltimore and Oakland in the five-team wild-card race.
Mike Trout tied the franchise rookie record by scoring his 103rd run for Los Angeles, which has won eight straight over Boston dating to last season, one victory shy of the Angels’ club record against the Red Sox.
“Right now, we’re playing like it’s all or nothing, and we’re all in,” said Torii Hunter, who had three hits for the second straight night. “They’re kind of in a rebuilding stage. You’ve still got to respect the pitching over there, but we’re feeling good about how we’re playing.”
James Loney went 3 for 4 with a homer and Jon Lester threw a nine-hitter for the Red Sox, who have lost eight of 11. Boston, which had never been swept in a season series of at least six games by any opponent in franchise history, hit several hard shots right at Los Angeles fielders in the final innings, leaving manager Bobby Valentine even more frustrated than usual.
“That eighth inning, we had two line drives with guys on base and couldn’t find a gap,” Valentine said. “Their guys were playing in the right place in the outfield.”
Kevin Jepsen escaped a jam of his own making in the eighth, and Ernesto Frieri pitched the ninth for his 16th save in 18 chances.
Lester (8-11) gave a lift to Boston’s worn-out bullpen by pitching a complete game, but fell behind 5-1 in the fourth inning. The left-hander’s first three-game winning streak of the season ended.
“That’s probably one of the best lineups in the American League, just because they can do everything,” Lester said of the Angels. “It’s pretty impressive to see them run around the bases.”
After Trout led off the game with a four-pitch walk, Hunter singled. Pujols drove them both home with a sharp double down the left-field line, giving the three-time NL MVP 90 RBIs in 124 games during his first season with Los Angeles.
Greinke then issued back-to-back walks to load the bases in the second inning, but Boston managed only one run on Mike Aviles’ sacrifice fly.
Los Angeles scored twice on four straight singles against Lester in the third inning, capped by Callaspo’s run-scoring hit.
Callaspo replaced second baseman Howie Kendrick, who left with a sore right knee. Kendrick, who said his knee suddenly pained him while he ran off the field midway through the third, flied out in the first inning, which meant his 15-game hitting streak ended.
Kendrick isn’t expected to have an MRI, and he plans to try to play Friday in Seattle.
Loney sneaked his first homer for the Red Sox just over the short fence in the right-field corner in the sixth inning. The former Dodgers first baseman has a hit in each of his first five games with Boston.
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