Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester(notes), left, shakes hands with outfielder Mike Cameron(notes), right, after the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Friday, April 22, 2011, in Anaheim, Calif.

The Boston Red Sox are beginning to play like they were expected to at the beginning of the season. Although the hitting has been suspect at times, the starting pitching over the last seven games has been outstanding.

Red Sox starters are 6-1 with a 1.17 ERA over those last seven games with the only loss coming to Oakland on Tuesday night. Riding the strength of the excellent starting pitching, they won their last three games, including last night’s 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Last night was no different as Jon Lester started the game by striking out the first four batters he faced. He did have some difficulties though when he allowed his first hit as he had a little trouble pitching out of the stretch. He was trying to paint the corners and wasn’t getting the calls from the home plate ump which ran his pitch count up.

The way he started though with the four strikeouts, one would have thought he’d go the full nine innings. But he was only able to throw six scoreless innings, allowing four hits and two walks while finishing the game with eight strikeouts to run his record to 2-1 with a 2.59 ERA.

It’s been nice to see Lester be able to put his early year struggles from the past behind him and pitch like the ace he has been after May during previous seasons.

Although he didn’t really throw the ball all that badly, Matt Albers made his first appearance after returning from the DL and allowed one run on two hits. Bobby Jenks, pitching in his third straight game, had a rough outing as he gave up two runs (one earned) on two hits and a walk. Jonathan Papelbon, also pitching in his third straight game, picked up his third straight save, giving him five so far in 2011.

While Carl Crawford continues to struggle at the dish (0-for-4), the Red Sox did get some timely hitting last night. Jacoby Ellsbury came through with a rare hit with a runner in scoring position (2-for-13 last night), knocking in Jarrod Saltalamacchia after he had doubled earlier in the third inning off of Angels starter Dan Haren. A Peter Bourjos error in the fourth off the bat of Crawford allowed The Legend of Jed Lowrie and J.D. Drew to score.

Drew would bring in the eventual winning run in the 6th after Lowrie doubled and went to third on a Vernon Wells error.

The Red Sox are definitely playing much better baseball than earlier in the season. Sure the hits aren’t coming with RISP, but the pitching has been great. And the bullpen has been much better as well. If the Red Sox can continue to play like this, the 2-10 start to the season will be a distant memory.

And in case you’re wondering, the Red Sox are only a 1/2 game out of third place in the AL East and just 3.5 games behind the Yankees for first.

We’ll be back later today with the tonight’s starting lineups, batter/pitcher matchups and links from the day. But for now enjoy the overnight links from the media by clicking on the read more button below if you’re on the home page

To open the links up in a new tab or window, use Control+click

Sox starting to look better [Boston Globe]

Pedroia was a showstopper [Boston Globe]

Beckett just kept it coming [Boston Globe]

Angels give, Red Sox take [Boston Herald]

Quick Kevin Youkilis sabbatical [Boston Herald]

Make ’em all count [Boston Herald]

Light-hitting Jason Varitek can still handle staff [Boston Herald]

Jon Lester gives some relief [Boston Herald]

Dan Wheeler, the Red Sox’ ironman reliever [Clubhouse Insider]

Youkilis better, should return Saturday []

Lester keeps Sox rolling, 4-3 []

Sox’ bats still slumping, but pitching in fine form []

Saltalamacchia says he’s not struggling [ESPN Boston]

Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 4, Angels 3 [ESPN Boston]

Boston Red Sox’s Kevin Youkilis (shin) likely to start Saturday vs. Los Angeles Angels [ESPN Boston]

Terry Francona Leads Dan Shaughnessy’s List of Top Red Sox Managers of All Time []

Jonathan Papelbon Sets Personal Milestone, Continues to Serve Key Role in Red Sox Run []

Red Sox beat Angels for third straight victory [Providence Journal]

Leadoff walks coming back to haunt Red Sox pitchers [Providence Journal]

Red Sox Journal: Youkilis’ shin improving day after foul-ball injury [Providence Journal]

Saltalamacchia frustrated after miscue []

Jonathan Papelbon has offered a convincing closing argument [Rob Bradford –]

For more slices of Red Sox goodness, head over to the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, CSNNEESPN Boston, NESN, Providence Journal, and WEEI websites.

And if you must check out the enemy news, head over to the LA Times, Orange County Register and LA Daily News websites.

Photo credit: AP Photo