The defending champion Red Sox made easy work of the Angels in last year's playoffs. It's been a much tougher matchup this season.
Torii Hunter hit a three-run homer and Casey Kotchman added a two-run shot in Los Angeles' six-run sixth inning, helping the Angels beat Boston 7-5 Monday night for their sixth straight regular-season win against the Red Sox.
"They might be the class of the American League right now," Boston manager Terry Francona said after the opener of the three-game series. "They have tremendous starting pitching, a very good bullpen, a lot of speed. They catch the ball very well. I could name a lot of things. Hopefully, tomorrow I won't be naming those things and we'll end up winning."
Francisco Rodriguez worked the ninth for his major league-best 44th save for the Angels, who held on for the win against a team that swept them 3-0 in both the 2004 and 2007 AL division series. Los Angeles has won 10 of 12 overall.
"I don't know if there's any rhyme or reason to some of the streaks," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "but we've been playing more consistent baseball this season on the road and at home."
In other AL games on Monday night, it was: Baltimore 13, New York 4; Minnesota 7, Chicago 0; Cleveland 5, Detroit 0; Toronto 3, Tampa Bay 1; Seattle 7, Texas 5; and Kansas City 4, Oakland 2.
Los Angeles (65-40) improved baseball's best road record to 34-19. Boston has the AL's best home record at 37-14, but has lost three of its last four at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox remained one game behind AL East-leading Tampa Bay, which lost at Toronto. The Angels started the day with a 10 1/2-game lead in the West over Oakland.
Kotchman's homer gave the Angels a 3-2 lead. Hunter's shot drove Daisuke Matsuzaka (11-2) from the game after he hadn't given up a homer in any of his previous five starts and one in the previous eight.
"This guy gave up three runs in the last five starts and, pow, you hit a homer," Hunter said. "I know he's a good pitcher and I had to let that go and just swing hard just in case you hit it."
Manny Ramirez singled home Boston's first two runs and homered off Rodriguez for the last run in the ninth. It was his 20th homer, making him the eighth player to hit that many in 14 consecutive seasons.
It came a day after he said he would agree to a trade if it would make him and the Red Sox happy. Boston has a $20 million option for next year on Ramirez, who said he was "tired" of the team.
With more than two months left in the season, Rodriguez is just 13 saves shy of Bobby Thigpen's record of 57 with the White Sox in 1990. No other player this season has more than 30 saves.
Jered Weaver (9-8) allowed three runs in 5 1-3 innings for Los Angeles in his first start since last Tuesday when he left after three innings with tightness in his back. He said he felt fine Monday.
Boston managed just a single in the first three innings before taking a 2-1 lead in the fourth. Kevin Youkilis drew a leadoff walk, David Ortiz doubled and Ramirez singled them home.
Matsuzaka retired the side in order in the fourth and fifth, striking out three of the six batters, but the first five batters of the sixth all reached base _ and scored.
"There were some mistakes that I thought we missed earlier," Scioscia said. "In the sixth inning, when he made a mistake, we didn't miss it."
Twins 7, White Sox 0
Kevin Slowey pitched a six-hitter, Denard Span hit his first major league home run and Minnesota beat visiting Chicago, striking first in this key AL Central series.
Slowey (7-7) struck out five and walked one, and the Twins moved within 1 1/2 games of the first-place White Sox. These teams play six more times this season _ all at the Metrodome.
Orioles 13, Yankees 4
Adam Jones hit a grand slam and an RBI triple to back Jeremy Guthrie's strong start, leading Baltimore to a blowout that ended New York's 10-game home winning streak.
Kevin Millar hit a three-run drive in the second and Ramon Hernandez followed another homer off an ineffective Mike Mussina (13-7), who failed to last at least six innings for the first time since May 24.
Indians 5, Tigers 0
Paul Byrd pitched into the eighth inning and combined with Edward Mujica on a four-hit shutout of the visiting Tigers.
Byrd (5-10) gave up four hits over 7 2-3 innings and didn't allow a runner past second base. The right-hander struck out four, walked three and earned his second straight win after going 1-7 over a stretch of 10 starts.
Blue Jays 3, Rays 1
A.J. Burnett (12-9) matched a career-high with his 12th win, Matt Stairs hit a two-run homer and host Toronto won for the sixth time in seven games.
Mariners 7, Rangers 5
Adrian Beltre homered twice, including the go-ahead shot in the eighth inning, to lead visiting Seattle past short-handed Texas.
Rangers All-Star shortstop Michael Young could miss up to a week with a small fracture on his right ring finger, which he apparently suffered diving back to first base on a pickoff attempt in the first inning. Texas was already without third baseman Hank Blalock, who was scratched before the game with an upset stomach.
Royals 4, Athletics 2
Jose Guillen hit his first home run in more than a month and Alex Gordon also had a two-run homer for visiting Kansas City, helping Zack Greinke (8-7) get his first win in July.
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