Thanks to a sweep of the Angels, the Red Sox emerged from their West Coast trip still alive in the American League Wild Card race. They lost ground on the Rays, yes, but with a healthy team and six games still to play against Tampa, nothing is decided yet.
But there may be more important things to take from the 10-game set. Over the offseason (and into April), the two biggest moves the Red Sox made were signing John Lackey and extending Josh Beckett. The results from Lackey so far have been lackluster, while Beckett been a total disaster and found himself on the disabled list for most of the season to date. The Red Sox and their fans needed some reassurance that this $35 million starter combo wasn't going to be a complete waste.
These last few weeks, Beckett and Lackey have delivered. Since his return, Beckett has thrown 12.2 innings, allowing four earned runs (and really, that number should be one, since all three of his runs in his last outing came as a result of what should have been ruled errors if that statistic had any logic to it), striking out ten batters while walking four.
Lackey has been just as good ever since allowing seven earned to Toronto in under five innings. He's thrown 22 innings in just his last three starts, walking only four batters in that period, and inducing his fair share of ground balls. Teasing a no-hitter in Seattle, Lackey has held the opposing offenses to the tune of four earned runs (a 1.61 ERA), and believe it or not has kept that figure under four in the past two months. Not bad for what was looking to be an albatross-in-the-making.
By no means is this a significant sample size. Two games for Beckett and three for Lackey shouldn't have anyone looking forward to the four ace year of 2011, necessarily. But then again, it was also a small sample size we were looking at before. Two months of bad performances from Lackey should hardly outweigh five years as the Angels' ace. And as much flak as Beckett has taken in 2008 and 2009, he's actually been quite good even then. For them to return to form and expose the first half of the season as the proverbial blip on the radar would make everyone in Boston more confident not only about the Sox' chances in 2010, but also for the next four years.