"Yeah, that was pretty nice," Lackey said through a Texas-sized grin. "I had it going on. I'd pitched three innings in relief [in the American League Division Series] against the Yankees and done well [no runs]. This opportunity in Game 4 was big for me."In seven innings against the Twins, the Angels holding a 2-1 lead in the AL Championship Series, Lackey yielded three singles, nothing else. He struck out seven men and needed only 79 pitches, 55 in the strike zone. "I could've kept going," he said, grinning. He is best and most fondly remembered for starting and winning Game 7 of the World Series against the Giants at Angel Stadium, but his masterwork had come 15 days earlier. "That was a great ride," Lackey said of the magic carpet that swept the Angels to the franchise's first championship. "It'd be nice to have another one." It could take him off into the sunset. Along with Vladimir Guerrero, Chone Figgins, Bobby Abreu, Robb Quinlan and Darren Oliver, Lackey is eligible to file free-agency papers after the season. Should Lackey move on down the road, the Angels have imported a top-of-the-rotation craftsman to fill the void in southpaw Scott Kazmir. A fellow Texan rooted in the same Lone Star State passion for football that gripped Lackey as a kid, Kazmir has impressed the ace with his style and composure. It doesn't hurt that Kaz, like Lackey, is a former high school quarterback. "You like to have a little presence out there," Lackey said. "He's been there before. He's been to the World Series last year, and he's been to a couple All-Star Games. "When you have that kind of stuff, you can deal with adversity, rough innings. You can get outs and get through it. You've done it before. It's easier to move on to the next one." Lackey is big on mound presence, on bringing an intensity level to work. It goes way back to those days in Abilene, when he was the QB, running the show. At least that's the opinion of Lackey's friend and former teammate, Adam Kennedy, now playing third base for the Athletics. "He's an old high school quarterback," Kennedy said. "He kind of has that quarterback mentality out there. He's in control. He's shown that mentality throughout his career." Lackey saw it from Kazmir in his first inning with the Angels. Loading the bases with none out in Seattle, the lefty reached back for some old-fashioned Texas heat and struck out the Mariners' Nos. 4-5-6 hitters. "When you're young and trying to establish yourself," Lackey said, "you don't have a long track record to draw on. You're not sure which direction it's going to go. When you get older, you know how to get there." Lackey was there, in the spotlight's glare for the first time, seven years ago. Fully aware of the path and the obstacles what it takes to get to the finish line -- a little luck and a lot of heart -- the big man is eager to take another run at it. "When you've been around," Lackey said with an unmistakable air of self-assurance, "you know who you are."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.