Bay’s homer sparks Red Sox to 4-1 win over Angels

Chris Carlson

No matter how much the Angels dominate Boston during the regular season, they can’t beat the Red Sox in October.

Jason Bay hit a two-out, two-run homer off Los Angeles ace John Lackey in the sixth inning, and the Red Sox beat the Angels 4-1 Wednesday night in the opener of their first-round AL playoff series.

“I think we proved a lot,” Bay said.

The Angels won eight of nine regular-season games between the teams this year, outscoring the Red Sox 42-17 in the final six. But the Red Sox have won 10 straight postseason games against the Angels dating to 1986, including first-round sweeps in 2004 and 2007 en route to World Series titles.

The World Series champion Red Sox tied a major league record for consecutive postseason wins over the same opponent, a mark Oakland set against the Red Sox from 1988-03.

Acquired in the three-team trade that sent Manny Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers two months ago, Bay brought Boston back from a 1-0 deficit in the first postseason game of his career, and the Red Sox got a big start from John Lester (1-0), who allowed only an unearned run in seven innings.

“We had some chances early, and couldn’t get some hits to fall in,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “Lester was on his game. He’s having a terrific year. He’s got a great arm and his velocity was up a bit from earlier in the year and he was able to get the fastball on both sides of the plate.”

The Angels will try to draw even Friday night in Game 2 of the best-of-five series, with Ervin Santana pitching against Boston’s Daisuke Matsuzaka.

While just four of 28 teams to lose NL division series openers have come back to win series, it’s been an even 14-14 split in the AL, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“We expect to go out and win every game, even though that’s not the way it always works out,” the Angels’ Gary Matthews Jr. said. “You never go into a game expecting to lose. Santana’s had an outstanding year for us, pitched with poise and confidence all year and he was a completely different pitcher than he was the year before.”

There were plenty of dramatic moments in the opener.

With Boston clinging to a 2-1 lead and rookie Justin Masterson on the mound, Jacoby Ellsbury made a great diving catch on Mark Teixeira’s sinking fly to center starting the eighth.

“I thought he had no chance. It just looked like it was in no-man’s land,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.

Vladimir Guerrero followed with a single before Torii Hunter blooped a hit over first baseman Kevin Youkilis, who quickly recovered and easily threw out Guerrero at third.

“Vlad is aggressive, and it was a tough read, and it was behind him, and I thought he thought the ball was a little further out there than it was,” Scioscia said. “And give Youkilis credit. He maintained his composure, got the hop and made a good throw to third base.”

Hunter said he was surprised Guerrero tried to go from first to third on the play.

“Vladdy was aggressive. That’s what we’ve been known for, but sometimes you have to be kind of smart,” Hunter said. “Sometimes it’s good to be aggressive, and sometimes it’s bad to be aggressive. But Vladdy is Vladdy. He thought he could make it, but it just didn’t work out.”

Ellsbury and David Ortiz added RBI singles in the ninth off Scot Shields, and Jonathan Papelbon finished for his fifth postseason save, extending his postseason scoreless streak to 15 2-3 innings.

The Angels had broken on top with an unearned run in the third on Hunter’s two-out, RBI single. Garret Anderson hit a one-out single and, after Teixeira struck out, rookie shortstop Jed Lowrie muffed Guerrero’s grounder before Hunter lined a 1-2 pitch to left that dropped in front of Bay.

Lowrie, making his postseason debut, set a major league record for rookie shortstops by handling 155 chances without an error in 49 games at that position during the regular season.

“I just rushed a little bit, I think I was trying to flip the ball to second before I fielded it,” Lowrie said. “It kind of looked for a while there like it might be the difference.”

Bay hit an 0-1 pitch far over the left-field fence with Youkilis aboard. He flipped his bat as he began his home run trot upon leaving the batter’s box, long before the ball landed in the seats beyond the double-decker bullpen.

“He left a fastball up, and I hit it,” Bay said.

Lester got the Game 1 assignment after Josh Beckett was pushed back to Game 3 because of an oblique problem. He retired his final seven batters, striking out four, and only one outfielder had a putout during his stint. Lester struck out seven and walked one.

“Early he established his fastball in,” Francona said. “Once we got the lead, he really went after ’em. He came with a vengeance and struck out the side.”

That was in the bottom of the sixth, when Lester fanned Howie Kendrick, Mike Napoli and Matthews.

The Angels, who wrapped up the AL West title with 2