"I think it was necessary," manager Terry Francona said. "You've got to start somewhere. Tonight was not an easy game to win. But these guys understand what's at stake here. We dug ourselves into a corner, but our enthusiasm and our concentration was tremendous."
Manny Ramirez was back in Boston's starting lineup after making his first pinch-hitting appearance of the season in the ninth inning of Tuesday night's 4-3 loss. But he lasted only three innings because of a sore right knee after chasing Juan Rivera's two-run single in the third and grounding out his first two times up.
"His right knee is really bothering him, and I guess it's not surprising," Francona said. "Anytime you're battling a hammy with a knee problem, it directly affects that. He didn't want to come out, but it was grabbing at him. So we're going to take him and get him checked out a little more extensively in the morning.
"We just want to get some better answers and make sure he's OK before we run him back out there. When you're on the road, you're a little bit at the mercy of the other team. But they're pretty helpful."
Lester (7-2) beat Kelvim Escobar in a rematch of their July 28 matchup at Fenway Park, when Escobar and the Angels won 8-3. The Boston left-hander threw 96 pitches over five innings, allowing three runs, six hits and four walks.
"He almost didn't make his start," Francona said. "His lower back was grabbing him so much this morning that the trainers called me about 10 o'clock. There was some concern about whether he was going to be able to pitch.
"He went out there without his best stuff and not feeling very comfortable, but he battled pretty damn good and gave us everything he had. If he couldn't go, we were in a world of hurt because there was no way we could have gotten somebody here in time."
Lester labored through the fifth with a 5-3 lead, giving up a walk and a single before Vladimir Guerrero grounded into a double play and Rivera popped out one pitch later.
"It just never felt comfortable," Lester said. "You could obviously tell the velocity was down, but we had location. So we just kept pounding the locations and going after guys doing the best we could with what we had."
The Angels got a run closer in the sixth after loading the bases with one out against Julian Tavarez. Tim Salmon scored when Chone Figgins barely beat shortstop Alex Cora's relay throw on a potential inning-ending double-play grounder to second.
Los Angeles loaded the bases again with one out in the seventh, but Salmon took a called third strike from Mike Timlin and the right-hander turned Howie Kendrick's tapper toward the mound into a forceout at the plate.
Keith Foulke got two outs in the eighth and left with a runner at third. Jonathan Papelbon struck out Orlando Cabrera, then pitched a perfect ninth for his 33rd save in 39 attempts.
Escobar (9-11) allowed five runs and six hits over eight innings, striking out six and walking one.
"I gave up five runs in the first two innings, but I didn't think I was missing that much," Escobar said. "The only pitch I wish I could get back was the breaking ball to David Ortiz, which I didn't locate well. But I made a huge adjustment and was able to stay out there for eight innings and give the team a lot of time to come back."
Ortiz gave Boston a 2-0 lead in the first with his major league-leading 45th homer, moving five back of the franchise record set by Jimmie Foxx in 1938. It was Ortiz's 28th homer on the road, breaking the club record he set last season.
Mike Lowell led off Boston's three-run second inning with a single, and Pena followed with a lazy flyball that just kept carrying until it cleared the left field fence in front of the Angels' bullpen.
Javy Lopez then doubled and scored on Crisp's single for a 5-1 lead, but the Red Sox got only one hit the rest of the way.
- Before batting practice, a number of Red Sox players including Ortiz and Papelbon got on a cell phone to wish good luck to all the players from the Portsmouth, N.H., team that will play Columbus, Ga., on Thursday night for the right to advance to U.S. finals of the Little League World Series.
- LF Garret Anderson, who hit safely in each of his previous 22 games against the Red Sox, did not start because of tightness in his left hamstring. He pinch-hit in the sixth and walked.