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With ninth straight win, Red Sox sweep

BOSTON (AP) -- The Boston Red Sox are putting some distance
between them and the rest of the AL wild-card contenders.

Derek Lowe pitched effectively into the eighth inning, and the
Red Sox took control of the wild-card race Thursday night by
completing a three-game sweep of the Anaheim Angels with a 4-3 win
-- their season-high ninth straight victory.

"This is a special run that we are going on," Lowe said.
"Especially the time of year, we are getting clutch hits, the
defense was phenomenal. We're having fun."

The Angels, who entered the week trailing Boston by 1½ games,
had won 10 of 11 games before running into the surging Red Sox.

Boston, which swept four games against Detroit before its
showdown with Anaheim, won despite stranding 14 runners and
misplaying a pair of fly balls in the outfield.

"It says that we're playing pretty well right now," said
Johnny Damon, who went 3-for-4 with an RBI. "We have another tough
team coming in, in Texas. We just have to keep playing tough."

Bill Mueller homered off Bartolo Colon to help the charging Red
Sox win for the 15th time in 16 games. They moved 4½ games ahead of
Anaheim in the wild-card chase and remained only 3½ behind the AL
East-leading New York Yankees.

Boston has won 10 straight games at Fenway Park and is 7-0 on
its 10-game homestand. The Red Sox have swept each of their last
three series at home. The last time that happened was April 19-May
4, 1994.

The Rangers, third in the wild-card standings, come to Boston
for a three-game series beginning Friday night. Boston will be
seeking its first 10-game winning streak in over 11 years, last
done in July 1993.

The Angels fell four games behind AL West-leading Oakland.

"Hey, they played great baseball for three days," Anaheim
manager Mike Scioscia said. "We couldn't match it, and we've got
to pick it up tomorrow."

Lowe (13-10) allowed single runs in each of the first three
innings but recovered to pitch 7 1-3 innings, giving up three runs
and seven hits. He walked one and struck out six.

He was helped by a splendid catch from right fielder Dave
Roberts, who saved at least one run and ended the fourth inning by
making a diving grab of Chone Figgins' liner and doubling Adam
Kennedy off second with two runners on.

"That was one of the best catches I've ever seen," Boston
manager Terry Francona said, "and talk about redeeming yourself
right away."

Roberts started the trouble by dropping Kennedy's line drive for
an error with one out before Jose Molina walked.

"The baseball gods looked out for me to give another
opportunity for my mistake," Roberts said.

Mike Myers retired the only batter he faced, and Keith Foulke
got four outs for his 26th save in 31 chances.

Unlike the first two nights, when Boston grabbed 4-0 leads in
the first inning, Anaheim broke ahead 1-0 in the first when
Vladimir Guerrero had an infield single, stole second and scored on
Garret Anderson's double.

Boston tied the score in the first when Damon doubled and scored
on Kevin Millar's double.

Colon (13-11) allowed four runs and 10 hits in 4 2-3 innings. He
is 8-3 in his last 11 starts.

"Even without (David) Ortiz they're hot and they got to me
tonight," Colon said.

Boston slugger Ortiz missed the game with a sore right shoulder
that he injured sliding into home plate Sunday. He aggravated it
with a swing Wednesday.

The Angels regained the lead in the second on Molina's RBI
double, but the Red Sox scored twice in the bottom of the second to
take a 3-2 lead.

Mueller's 10th homer tied it, and Damon had an RBI single after
Roberts doubled off the Green Monster.

Darin Erstad hit a ground-rule double to start the Anaheim third
and scored on Anderson's grounder, tying it at 3.

The Red Sox took the lead for good in their half of the third
when Orlando Cabrera barely beat right fielder Guerrero's throw to
the plate on Mueller's sacrifice fly. Cabrera singled and went to
third on Doug Mientkiewicz's double.

Game notes
Damon had four hits Wednesday. ... 3B Mueller made a pair
of nice plays on short hops. ... Kennedy's diving stop of Roberts'
grounder saved a run and ended the third. ... The Red Sox won the
season series 5-4. ... Erstad extended his hitting streak to 11
games.