ANAHEIM, Calif. — When Marco Scutaro saw a changeup coming from one of the hardest-throwing relievers in baseball, Boston’s scrappy shortstop knew exactly what to do with that stroke of good luck.
His grand slam sent the Red Sox home from the West Coast with ample reason to believe they’re still in the postseason chase.
Scutaro hit his tiebreaking shot in the eighth inning off Fernando Rodney, and the Red Sox wrapped their 10-game trip with a 7-3 victory over the slumping Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday, sweeping the three-game series.
Scutaro had three hits and drew two walks against the Angels’ pen, capping his day with his second career grand slam. After Rodney issued two walks and gave up a bunt single to open the eighth, Scutaro drove a two-strike changeup into the left-field corner, where it stayed just fair.
“I was just trying to see the ball and hit a fly ball — something,” Scutaro said of the fastballs he had seen earlier in the at-bat. “It’s tough when he’s throwing 97, 98 (mph), and then he throws a change.”
Although Josh Beckett (2-1) yielded five hits over seven innings in his first victory since April 10, his hitters didn’t back him until late in a hot afternoon at Angel Stadium. That’s no surprise, since Boston scored 13 of its 17 runs in the series after the sixth inning.
“The way we ended the road trip, we can take that back with us and get to where we’re comfortable,” Beckett said after his second start back from a two-month stint on the disabled list. “We’ve still got more guys to get healthy, but a lot of us are coming back now. I feel like I’m strong.”
Kevin Youkilis tied it with a seventh-inning homer, while Adrian Beltre and Bill Hall hit early inning solo shots as the Red Sox improved to 7-0 this season against the club that sent them home from last season’s playoffs. Even after a tough road trip with no days off, the Red Sox stayed within striking distance of New York and Tampa Bay atop the AL East.
The Angels don’t resemble a playoff team now — and not just because of another discouraging injury. Angels starter Joel Pineiro strained a muscle in his left side moments before the first pitch, sidelining him for six to eight weeks.
With their seventh loss in eight games, the Angels are plummeting out of the race for their sixth AL West title in seven seasons. Pineiro’s long-term absence won’t help.
“When I threw that curveball, I thought it was like a cramp or a muscle spasm,” Pineiro said. “So I thought maybe I could stretch it out and see what happens. Then I tried to throw another one, and there was no chance, no way to throw it.”
The Angels were swept at home for the first time in 80 series, ending the majors’ longest streak since Atlanta went 84 home series without being swept from 2003-06. Los Angeles hadn’t been swept in Angel Stadium since June 2007 against Kansas City.
“We’ll start to patch some things together here,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said after keeping his clubhouse closed for an abnormally long time. “Everything is a cause-and-effect, for sure, but we certainly don’t feel that we’re out of this right now. We’ve obviously been struggling the last couple of weeks. I think there’s options we need to look at, and when there’s something that’s going to make us better, internally or externally, we’ll act on it.”
With a day off Thursday, Los Angeles used five relievers in Pineiro’s place. Although Scot Shields struggled in his first start in nearly seven years, the Angels stayed in it until Rodney (4-1) collapsed.
Beckett was the latest Boston player to look good after getting healthy, yielding three runs and striking out five. Clay Buchholz pitched well in the series opener two days ago, and catcher Victor Martinez played in all three games after returning Monday.
“This is a good way to end a road trip, and now we love home cooking,” said Hall, who made a leaping catch on Juan Rivera’s eighth-inning line drive with two runners on base.
Shields made his first start since Sept. 28, 2003, but the longtime middle reliever wasn’t sharp, giving up two homers and throwing two wild pitches before leaving the second inning with the bases loaded.
Francisco Rodriguez escaped the jam and pitched 2 1-3 scoreless innings. Rich Thompson then had five strikeouts in three strong innings, but yielded Youkilis’ tying homer.
Los Angeles got back-to-back RBI singles from light-hitting Bobby Wilson and Reggie Willits in the second and took the lead in the fifth on Maicer Izturis’ sacrifice fly after Willits got a leadoff double when Hall lost his popup in the sun.
NOTES: David Ortiz struck out four times, matching his career high. … Angels CF Torii Hunter didn’t play while mired in a 4-for-23 slump. … A swarm of bees emerged from a hive under the upper deck at Angel Stadium in the seventh inning, but disappeared a few minutes later.
Tuesday night’s game
ANAHEIM, Calif. — John Lackey pitched into the eighth inning to win in his return to Angel Stadium, and Jed Lowrie’s two-run double in the seventh put the Boston Red Sox ahead in a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night.
Lackey was narrowly outpitched by Jered Weaver in a meeting of the Angels’ past and present aces until Darnell McDonald and Marco Scutaro scored Boston’s first two runs on a clutch two-out drive by Lowrie in just his sixth game of the season after missing nearly four months with mononucleosis.
Lackey (10-5) was mostly booed in his first game back in Orange County since signing a big-money free-agent deal with Boston. He gave up seven hits and left after Bobby Abreu’s homer on his 124th pitch.
Adrian Beltre added an RBI double in the eighth, and Scutaro scored on a throwing error in the ninth. Scutaro had three hits, McDonald had two in a last-minute start, and Lowrie had two doubles.
The Red Sox have scored eight of their 11 runs after the sixth inning in the series’ first two games, and the Angels have wasted solid starts by Dan Haren and Weaver (9-7), who allowed six hits in seven innings and struck out eight in his fourth loss in five starts.
Abreu also had an early RBI double for the Angels, who have lost six of seven.
Daniel Bard got two outs in the eighth after Abreu’s homer, and Jonathan Papelbon finished for his 24th save.
Lackey won 102 games in eight seasons with the Angels before leaving for a five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Red Sox last year. Although Lackey was durable and dynamic for the Angels, he showed little sentimentality about the club last season, perhaps alienating some Angels fans.
The announcement of Lackey’s name during pregame introductions was greeted with plenty of boos, and the jeers intensified when he took the mound in the bottom of the first inning. A few fans held up derogatory signs directed at Lackey, who won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series on the same mound as an Angels rookie.
The Red Sox scratched right fielder J.D. Drew a few minutes before the first pitch with tightness in his left hamstring. Lowrie moved into his No. 2 spot in the order, while McDonald was his replacement — and both played key offensive roles for the star-studded Sox.
McDonald drew a two-out walk from Weaver in the seventh after falling behind 0-2. Scutaro added a single, and Lowrie poked Weaver’s 112th pitch over the head of left fielder Juan Rivera, who was playing exceptionally shallow.
David Ortiz scored from first base on Beltre’s double in the eighth thanks to a weak relay by Maicer Izturis, who couldn’t throw out Ortiz from s
hallow left field. Torii Hunter ended the inning with a leaping catch on Mike Cameron’s drive to the wall.
After going 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position in Monday’s 6-3 loss, the Angels stranded four more in the first four innings. Hunter, the Angels’ All-Star cleanup hitter and most consistent offensive player this year, struck out looking with runners on second and third in the third inning.