He still couldn't prevent the Boston Red Sox from making another dismal bit of franchise history in this increasingly miserable season.
Zack Greinke yielded five hits over seven strong innings, Albert Pujols hit an early two-run double and the Los Angeles Angels swept their season series with Boston for the first time with a 5-2 victory Thursday night.
No team in Boston's 112-year history had ever been swept in a season series of at least six games by any opponent until the Angels won six straight against the Red Sox over the past 10 days, capped by these three consecutive wins by a combined 21-10 in Anaheim.
Lester (8-11) threw a nine-hitter and gave a lift to Boston's worn-out bullpen by pitching his career-best third complete game of the year. But the left-hander fell behind 5-1 in the fourth inning, and his first three-game winning streak of the season ended.
"After the third, I was able to get in more of a rhythm and slow them down," Lester said. "You've got to minimize the damage early, and I didn't do that."
James Loney went 3 for 4 with a homer for the Red Sox, who have lost eight of 11 overall. Boston didn't give up easily, hitting several hard shots right at Los Angeles fielders in the final innings, leaving manager Bobby Valentine even more frustrated than usual.
"That eighth inning, we had two line drives with guys on base and couldn't find a gap," Valentine said. "Their guys were playing in the right place in the outfield."
Greinke (3-2) was unintimidating but effective in his seventh appearance for the Angels, striking out five and limiting Boston to two runs during his third victory in four starts. The right-hander might have found his groove in Orange County after a slow start following his arrival from Milwaukee, yielding three runs in 14 2-3 innings over his last two starts.
"I was doing so bad, I figured I couldn't do any worse," the 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner said. "The main thing (now) is I'm not worried about messing up. ... Better location, I guess that's the main thing. I'm not leaving my mistakes over the middle of the plate."
Mark Trumbo and pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo drove in runs in the third inning for the Angels, who have stayed in the AL wild-card hunt by battering Boston. Los Angeles has won seven of nine overall, keeping pace with Baltimore and Oakland in the five-team wild-card race.
"That's probably one of the best lineups in the American League, just because they can do everything," Lester said of the Angels. "It's pretty impressive to see them run around the bases."
Mike Trout tied the franchise rookie record by scoring his 103rd run for Los Angeles, which has won eight straight over Boston dating to last season, one victory shy of the Angels' club record against the Red Sox.
"Right now, we're playing like it's all or nothing, and we're all in," said Torii Hunter, who had three hits for the second straight night. "They're kind of in a rebuilding stage. You've still got to respect the pitching over there, but we're feeling good about how we're playing."
Kevin Jepsen escaped a jam of his own making in the eighth, and Ernesto Frieri pitched the ninth for his 16th save in 18 chances.
After Trout led off the game with a four-pitch walk, Hunter singled. Pujols drove them both home with a sharp double down the left-field line.
Greinke then issued back-to-back walks to load the bases in the second inning, but Boston managed only one run on Mike Aviles' sacrifice fly.
Los Angeles scored twice on four straight singles against Lester in the third inning, capped by Callaspo's run-scoring hit.
Loney sneaked his first homer for the Red Sox just over the short fence in the right-field corner in the sixth inning. The former Dodgers first baseman has a hit in each of his first five games with Boston.
NOTES: Greinke allowed a homer in his sixth consecutive start, matching the longest such streak of his career in 2005. ... After one home series, the Angels are back on the road for another week starting Friday in Seattle, where Dan Haren faces Kevin Millwood. ... Boston's nine-game West Coast road swing continues in Oakland on Friday night.
This program aired on August 31, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.