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BOS@LAA: Lackey pitches eight scoreless frames to win

ANAHEIM -- The Red Sox let the Rally Monkey take a prolonged rest on this visit through Anaheim. Backed by a surging starting rotation, Boston notched what is always a tough feat, completing a four-game road sweep.

John Lackey, an Angel from 2002-09, put on the finishing touches, firing an Easter Sunday gem (eight shutout innings) and leading the Red Sox to a 7-0 victory.

How good have Boston's starters been of late? Over the last nine games, they are 7-0 with an 0.88 ERA.

"I didn't know those numbers," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "But I go back to ... when we pitch like that, it's a good way to play the game. They were outstanding."

Much like his rotation cohorts, Lackey's early-season struggles seem to be a thing of the past. Over his last two starts, he's allowed one run in 14 innings.

"There's definitely a sense of not wanting to be the guy to stop the streak," said Lackey. "I was able to pitch pretty well today, and everybody on the staff's been throwing the ball pretty good."

You don't have to tell the Angels. They lived through it for four days and didn't much like it.

"These guys came in swinging the bats and the pitching was unbelievable this series. The pitching was sick," said Angels right fielder Torii Hunter.

It was the first time the Red Sox have swept a four-game series in Anaheim since June 12-15, 1980. And with Saturday's 5-0 win, these were their first back-to-back shutouts since June 19-20, 2007.

"We're pitching good, we're playing good defense and we're scoring runs," said shortstop Marco Scutaro. "We're playing as a team right now."

A lively offense made this one of Boston's most well-rounded victories of the season. Carl Crawford (first homer in a Boston uniform) and Adrian Gonzalez helped lead the charge with multi-hit, multi-RBI performances.

Following a 2-10 start, the Sox have ripped off eight wins in their last nine games, including a five-game winning streak they will enjoy during Monday's off-day in Baltimore.

"I know what this team is capable of doing," said Gonzalez. "One little rut wasn't going to change who we are."

With a win Tuesday, the 10-11 Red Sox can get to .500 for the first time this season.

"Yeah, I mean, as quickly as we got ourselves in a hole, we knew we were capable of getting ourselves out of it," Gonzalez said.

The rolling Red Sox wasted no time in this one, jumping out in front early against Angels righty Matt Palmer. Jacoby Ellsbury opened the game with a double to right and scored on Gonzalez's one-out double to the gap in right-center. David Ortiz ripped an RBI single to left and Mike Cameron got a run home on a fielder's choice, giving Lackey a 3-0 lead before he even threw a pitch.

"We get three in the first and then Lack holds them down and lets us kind of peck away and spread it out -- that's a really good formula for winning," said Francona.

Pitching in his old home, Lackey looked comfortable, mowing through the Angels just as Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka did in the first three games of the series.

"This is a great place to pitch," Lackey said.

How, specifically has Lackey rebounded from his opening two starts of the season?

"I think he's feeling more comfortable, hitting his spots a little better, not missing over the middle, missing more off the plate. But he's the same guy," said Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

This was one of those days Lackey seemed to be in cruise control. Boston got the righty another run in the fifth, as Scutaro scored on a sacrifice fly by Dustin Pedroia.

Crawford extended the lead to 6-0 in the sixth, mauling a two-run homer to right that had everyone in Boston's dugout on the top step.

"There's a lot of guys pulling for him," said Francona. "They know how hard he's working. That was a good feeling."

But nothing makes the Red Sox feel better than the way they are pitching.

"It's a good run," Lackey said. "But it's not unexpected. We've got some guys with pretty good track records."

Of course, the Red Sox were reminding people -- including themselves -- of that fact during the rough start.

"We're pitching better, we're hitting better, we're playing better defense," said Pedroia. "That's it -- no secrets. We're not trying to get too high or too low. We're just trying to play, that's it."

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