However grudgingly I may do it, I have to give John Lackey some credit.
Last night, I caught part of the game while sitting at a bar in Great Barrington, Mass., technically still in New England, but more a part of the Hudson River Valley, meaning I was surrounded by highly vocal Yankees fans. I came in just in time to watch Lackey surrender the Red Sox' two-run lead in the top of the fourth.
In the bottom of that inning, two unlikely heroes batted in first one run (Carl Crawford), and then another (Marco Scutaro). To the curses of the Yanks fans around me (music to my ears), Jacoby Ellsbury would add to his case for MVP with a three-run homer that, in retrospect, pretty much put things away.
But at the time, as Lackey took the ball again for the top of the fifth, that still seemed a dangerous conclusion to reach, even with a five-run lead, as Lackey surrendered a single and then hit a batter, before surrendering an RBI single to Derek Jeter. Once again, applause rang out around me at the bar. "Freakin' Lackey," I Tweeted. "Doing his best to give it right back."
No sooner had I shot my mouth off than Lackey made me have to eat my words, sacking up big time and striking out Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira in succession, followed by inducing a groundout to first from Robinson Cano.
Even more surprisingly, in the top of the sixth, when Eric Chavez sent a screaming liner toward the hole between short and third, and then Kevin Youkilis was there, fully airborne, snagging the ball for the kind of lineout to which a box score will never do justice, for once, Lackey was seen praising a teammate for a balls-out play with as much gusto as he's been seen cursing them when they screw up.
If you'd told me ahead of time how these two games were going to go for the Red Sox given the pitching matchups, I'd have slapped you silly, or at least assumed someone else already had. But now here we are, looking at the biggest rubber game in recent memory, as tonight, Josh Beckett takes the mound (weather willing) against Freddy Garcia, winner take all, first place or bust. And it's all thanks to Gentleman John.