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LAA@BOS: Lester fans 11 over seven frames

BOSTON -- Facing three top-flight pitchers in three days, the Red Sox were downright undeterred. They also came out on top on each occasion, completing that most-challenging trifecta with Tuesday night's 7-3 win over Dan Haren and the Angels.

Before emerging victorious over Haren, Boston first came out on the winning end on Sunday, when reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez started for the Mariners. They did so again on Monday against the nasty offerings of Jered Weaver.

"Every one of them counts the same, but when you beat guys like that, it's nice," said Jed Lowrie. "That's the best the game has to offer."

All in all, it was an inspiring stretch of baseball that pushed the Red Sox (14-15) just one win away from reaching the .500 mark for the first time this season.

"I hope everybody we face brings out the best [in us]," said manager Terry Francona. "Again, they're some of the best pitching in baseball. And they're hot. That's a tough chore."

In this one, Boston was fortunate enough to have its own ace on the mound in Jon Lester.

The power lefty was just a little better than Haren, limiting the Angels to six hits and a run over seven innings. He walked one and struck out 11 for the 15th double-digit K game of his career.

"It's fun to have those battles every once in a while -- to see who's going to make the first mistake," said Lester. "You know, I did early. We just had to hang around as best we could, keep them within striking distance. Guys did a good job of grinding at-bats out."

This one was a nail-biter until the bottom of the eighth, when the Red Sox got home runs from Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz and Marco Scutaro in a four-run frame, stretching their lead to 7-1.

For an offense that had trouble clicking on all cylinders in April, the first three days of May have been highly rewarding.

"It's a great sign," said Gonzalez, whose homer was his first at Fenway. "It's something that we can definitely move forward from."

In case you haven't noticed, Lester is pitching as well as anyone in the game of late. Backed by his latest evening of dominance, Lester improved to 4-1 and lowered his ERA to 2.33.

All he needed was a little offense, which the Red Sox came up with in the sixth.

Down, 1-0, the Red Sox finally got the rally they were looking for against Haren. It started on a one-out double to right by Jacoby Ellsbury. With two outs, Gonzalez nailed a single to left-center and Ellsbury slid in just in time to tie the game. Ortiz kept the rally going with a single to right. Lowrie rifled an RBI single to right, and Lester had the lead for the first time at 2-1.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia provided some insurance in the seventh, roping a double off the Monster in left-center that brought home Carl Crawford from first.

"Haren did a good job early on, too. Our offense did a great job grinding at-bats, waiting for that one opportunity to strike. We did, and we took advantage of it. That's always fun to see," said Lester.

With two games left in this four-game set, the Red Sox are 6-0 against the Angels this season.

"The focus is on our team," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "What's disturbing isn't getting beaten by one team. What's disturbing is not getting into our game."

The duel was everything you'd expect it to be out of the gate. Lester cracked first, giving up a mammoth two-out solo shot to Mark Trumbo in the top of the second.

That was the only run by either side over the first five innings.

Then, however, the Red Sox got into their game.

Lester exited after 93 pitches, giving way to Daniel Bard in the eighth.

"I just think we've got to take care of him," Francona said. "We're going through a stretch here where there aren't any days off. He's throwing pretty hard and it's early. [We] just want to take care of him."

As for the Red Sox, they are starting to take care of business, resembling the championship-caliber team many projected they could be.

"It's good," said Lester. "It's big. We've all sat down in that clubhouse and said we're better than what we're playing, and the past three games, we've done a really good job."

Just as the weather is showing signs of heating up, so are the Boston bats.

"Any win is a great win," said Saltalamacchia, "but when you beat another team's ace, that's always a plus."

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