Dealing like a mid-1970s Nolan Ryan, John Lackey was two outs away from joining his boyhood idol in the no-hit pantheon on Tuesday when Dustin Pedroia cracked a clean, no-doubt, line-drive single in the bottom of the ninth at Fenway Park. Kevin Youkilis followed with a two-run homer, and Lackey bowed his head and got two more outs, walking off with a complete-game, 6-2 triumph.
"You're not going to get a better pitched game than that, for sure," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who caught a pair of no-hitters in his day. "Unfortunately, that ninth inning, he didn't finish the no-hitter or shutout, but against that lineup, to pitch that well and that deep into the game, that's a great game by John Lackey."
Lackey was aware of his shot at joining Ryan (four Angels no-hitters) and three others in the no-hit club from about the sixth inning on, he said, adding that he had no regrets about pitch selection.
"I gave up the hit on a curveball," Lackey said. "That's probably my best pitch. I can sleep on that.
"I just want to win. The no-hitter would have been nice, but it's a 'W.'"
Taking the mound after news that Casey Kotchman was headed for Atlanta in exchange for Mark Teixeira in a swap of first basemen, with pitching prospect Steve Marek also going to the Braves, Lackey kept his focus on catcher Jeff Mathis' glove from his first pitch -- and rarely missed his target.
"It was awesome," Lackey said of his connection with Mathis. "We were on the same page all night."
It's just that Mathis' page was shaking a little in his hands as the night wore on, the young receiver experiencing this type of pressure for the first time.
"I was just trying not to shake so bad," Mathis said. "I've never been in anything like that before -- especially here against these guys, in this park."
The Angels have taken seven of eight from their October tormentors. They'll go for their second consecutive series sweep of the reigning World Series champions on Wednesday night behind All-Star southpaw Joe Saunders, who faces Red Sox ace Josh Beckett -- in big-game mode, no doubt.
After taking the series opener with homers from Kotchman and Torii Hunter, the Angels put together two third-inning runs against Clay Buchholz, courtesy in part of an error by normally reliable third baseman Mike Lowell. Chone Figgins drove in one run with a single, and Maicer Izturis walked with the bases loaded to make it 2-0.
The Halos doubled their lead in the fourth on Garret Anderson's two-run homer to right, following a single by Hunter. Anderson's blast to right on a fastball was his 10th, and with 53 RBIs, he moved to within one of co-leaders Vladimir Guerrero, Hunter and the departed Kotchman.
Robb Quinlan's triple to the right-center gap keyed a two-run seventh inning. Howie Kendrick's sacrifice fly produced one run, and Izturis singled home the other in what might have been his final appearance in the No. 3 hole.
Teixeira is expected to occupy that spot in front of Guerrero on Wednesday night against Beckett, Izturis moving into the No. 2 slot.
The arrival of the muscular slugger adds a new dimension to a club that has pulled away from the American League West with the Majors' best record (66-40).
Third in the 2007 Cy Young Award race, Lackey was in prime-time form from the outset.
Going almost exclusively with the fastball into the sixth, Lackey began mixing in curveballs, sliders and changeups the third time through the lethal Red Sox order.
"It's kind of a weird feeling in the dugout," Scioscia said. "Nobody wants to talk to John about no hits. When [Pedroia] gets a base hit to left field, your heart drops a little bit. You're disappointed."
After the curveball got through the hole, it was a slider Youkilis lifted over the Green Monster, depriving Lackey of what would have been his first shutout of the year and eighth of his career.
The biggest scare before the ninth came when David Ortiz led off the seventh with a deep drive that Guerrero hauled in a step in front of the right-field wall.
"Yeah, I thought it had a chance," Lackey said, grinning.
He'd helped himself in the sixth with his athleticism, jumping over Jacoby Ellsbury's flying bat while maintaining the concentration to handle his comebacker.
Lackey, 2-6 in his career against the Red Sox coming in with a 6.01 ERA, had given up 20 earned runs in 23 2/3 innings across his previous four starts.
"He's had a little trouble here in Boston," Scioscia said, "but when he's on and making his pitches, he can pitch against any lineup -- and he certainly showed that here tonight."
Lackey jumped ahead in the count on 21 of 32 hitters, pumping that fastball into good locations.
"He threw up in the zone when he wanted to elevate," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He threw his fastball with an angle down in the zone. He threw very good breaking balls -- even in the count, behind in the count, ahead in the count.
"Until the very end, we didn't do anything. He threw in to lefties and righties to get our barrels off the ball. He executed everything tonight. He threw with velocity. He pitched a great game."
The only Boston baserunner through 5 2/3 innings was J.D. Drew, hit on his left foot by a pitch in the second inning. A two-out walk to Pedroia in the sixth was followed by a force out.
Rolling into the ninth, Lackey struck out Ellsbury on a wicked curveball.
Pedroia has been among the hottest hitters in the game for a month, and he was right on Lackey's curveball with a shot that Izturis had no chance of flagging down in the hole.
"He keeps his hands back on everything," Mathis said of Pedroia. "He can hit the fastball, breaking ball ... doesn't matter. He keeps his hands in on the breaking ball."
The catcher was spent.
"What a day," he said, shaking his head.
Like none other in club history.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.