A year after Lester outdueled John Lackey in Boston's Game 1 triumph, the Angels' ace returned the favor in this one.
This time, it was the Angels -- and Torii Hunter in particular -- who got the game-breaking hit, a three-run homer to center in the bottom of the fifth that broke a scoreless tie.
"I left the ball up and he hit it," said Lester. "The thought process behind it was good. I felt like that was the right pitch to throw. I was trying to get a double play. I elevated it a little and he hit it out. I was trying to execute a two-seamer down and away and it was more middle up. What can you do?"
It was a different feeling for the Red Sox, given their recent history of success against the Angels in October. While this is the fourth time in the past six years the Red Sox and Angels have met in the ALDS, this marks the first time Boston -- which won the other three series -- has lost Game 1.
The best-of-five series resumes on Friday night, when the Red Sox send ace Josh Beckett to the mound against Jered Weaver.
"We're OK," said Lester. "We've lost a game before. This isn't the end of the world. We'll come back tomorrow. We've got J.B. going for us and hopefully we can do the same thing we did tonight. Grind it out and hopefully it's in our favor next time."
Interestingly, teams who have won Game 1 in the ALDS are just 14-14 in the series. National League teams, on the other hand, are 25-3 after winning Game 1.
"We knew they're a great team," said Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. "Lackey went out there and pitched a great game. It's going to be a hard-fought series."
After the tension-filled first four innings of Game 1 in which both pitchers allowed just one hit, it was Lester who blinked first.
Erick Aybar ripped a leadoff double and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Chone Figgins. Bobby Abreu, a pest for the Red Sox all night, worked a walk, one of four he would have in the game.
"I threw a lot of good pitches to Bobby and he's just a good hitter," Lester said. "He laid off a lot of tough pitches and I walked him a couple of times. I felt like I threw the ball well. My thought process behind every pitch was there and that's all I can really do. Once it leaves my hand, I can't direct the ball, which way it's going. It stinks to be on this side of it, but I can look myself in the mirror and say I focused on every pitch and tried to execute every pitch I could."
TRAILING IN ALDS
|2005||White Sox||Chicago, 3-0|
It was just the one to Hunter that wasn't executed nearly the way Lester wanted it to be. Hunter got all of Lester's 95-mph 0-1 offering and cranked it into the rocks beyond the wall in center. It was Hunter's fourth career postseason homer.
"Lester is nasty, man," said Hunter. "He brings that serious heat and then that slider down at your feet. It was a two-seam fastball. I hit a mistake, I guess. I usually pop it up or ground out. I closed my eyes and swung. I didn't know where it was [in the strike zone]. He had his cutter working all night. He had a lot of guys off balance."
The way the night was going, Hunter's hit felt like a game-breaker. It proved to be just that.
"That was huge because of the way Lackey was pitching," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who spent much of his day recovering from food poisoning. "Three runs looked like a lot."
Lester allowed four hits and three runs over six innings, walking four and striking out five. Then there was Lackey, who was magnificent, firing 7 1/3 shutout innings. He walked one, struck out four and threw 114 pitches.
"Lackey shut us down," said Red Sox left fielder Jason Bay. "We had four singles and three errors. That isn't going to win too many ballgames, but you've got to tip your hat a little bit."
In 150 postseason games, this marked just the 10th time Boston didn't produce any extra-base hits. It was the first time the Red Sox have been shut out in a postseason game since Game 2 of the 1995 ALDS against Orel Hershiser and the Cleveland Indians.
In another ignominious feat, it was the first time Boston has made as many as three errors in a postseason game since they made four defensive gaffes in Games 1 and 2 of the 2004 World Series.
The Angels added two insurance runs in the seventh against Ramon Ramirez and Takashi Saito. The Angels loaded the bases with nobody out against Ramirez.
"I thought he looked a little amped up," Francona said. "He walked Bobby, which can happen. Hopefully next time out he'll be a little better."
Saito came on to get a huge 5-2-5 double play off the bat of Juan Rivera.
Just when it seemed the Red Sox could escape, Vladimir Guerrero scored on Kendry Morales' RBI single to left field and Rivera scored on Bay's throwing error.
After an uneventful first two innings in which neither team had a hit, the action heated up in the third. Alex Gonzalez produced the first hit of the game, a two-out single up the middle. Lackey appeared to be out of the inning when he gloved a grounder by Ellsbury and threw to first for the out. But home-plate umpire Joe West called catchers' interference on Jeff Mathis, and the Red Sox had runners at first and second and Dustin Pedroia at the plate. But a composed Lackey got Pedroia on a flyout to right.
"I thought he did a tremendous job when he needed that big pitch," said Ellsbury. "Guys were battling and he made that big pitch. He didn't give us too much to hit. Hats off to him."
Then it was the Angels' turn to come up with a rally that fell short. Mathis opened the bottom of the third with a single up the middle. Abreu drew a walk. Up stepped Hunter, who nearly struck out looking on a 2-2 pitch. It was called a ball, and Lester clenched his teeth in anger. Hunter drew a walk, loading them up for Vladimir Guerrero.
But Lester reached back and fired a 96-mph heater by Guerrero to end the three-pitch strikeout, and the inning.
"I think he threw the ball good," said Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez. "It was just one pitch that he left up in the zone and Torii Hunter really put a good swing on that one. He did a pretty good job mixing all his pitches. Unfortunately, that pitch, it was one that they didn't miss."
And now, the Red Sox will try to get off the mat behind Beckett.
"If we come back and win tomorrow, we'll be fine," said Pedroia. "Obviously, you don't want to be down 2-0 in a short series. We'll come out tomorrow and hopefully play a lot better than we did tonight."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.