On a night where buzz amidst the Angels' clubhouse began with the acquisition of Mark Teixeira from the Atlanta Braves, Lackey came within two outs of no-hitting the potent Red Sox lineup for the first time at Fenway in more than half a century in a 6-2 Angels victory.
Dustin Pedroia ended the threat with a one-out single in the ninth.
"Until the very end, we didn't do anything," manager Terry Francona said. "He threw in to lefties and righties to get our barrels off the ball. Until the end, we had nothing."
Perhaps what made Lackey's potential no-no so impressive was that he nearly did it to this Red Sox lineup on their home turf. Considering the 50-year stretch since the Tigers' Jim Bunning's last did it on July 20, 1958, and Boston's 37-15 record at home, that's no easy feat.
"He was awesome," Pedroia said. "He put on a show. We were hitting some balls hard, but kind of right at some guys. Once he gets the lead in games, we know what he's going to do. There's no secret about him, and he's got good stuff, too."
After Jacoby Ellsbury struck out to start the ninth, all eyes were on Pedroia walking to the plate with a chance to play spoiler to Lackey's dominance. He didn't disappoint, sending the 1-1 pitch between shortstop Maicer Izturis and third baseman Chone Figgins.
What was on Pedroia's mind?
"Just trying to have a good at-bat," he said. "You can't control results. I hit a couple balls hard in my first two at-bats, but they were in the air. And I'd seen him three times, so I know he has great stuff. I was just trying to get a pitch to hit."
With the no-no out of reach, Kevin Youkilis ended Lackey's attempt at a shutout with a two-run shot over the Green Monster.
"I just wanted to win the game," Lackey said. "The no-hitter would've been nice, whatever, but we're about winning games."
Lackey was true to that objective, going the distance allowing only two hits, two runs and striking out four. Prior to the ninth-inning base hit, only striking J.D. Drew with a pitch in the second and surrendering a walk to Pedroia in the sixth stood in Lackey's way of a perfect outing.
Buchholz matched Lackey pitch for pitch early on. Buchholz cruised through the first two innings with mechanics most hoped they'd see out of the young right-hander throughout the season. His 15 pitches through the first two innings retired the dangerous Angels in order.
Then came the third. After a Mike Lowell error turned a potential two outs, bases empty situation into a one on and one out scenario, Buchholz couldn't quite recover. Two runs would cross the plate in the inning, the first of three, two-run frames throughout the night for the Halos.
The Angels would tack on two more in the fourth as Garret Anderson stroked a two-run shot to right field, giving Los Angeles a comfortable four-run lead.
"You learn something from every start," Buchholz said. "It's tough to learn the way I've been learning this year. But at the same time, it keeps you in the game and makes you know what you can and can't do and what you need to do to succeed."
But the night belonged to Lackey, and Buchholz knew that firsthand. His performance on the mound was one where he had all his pitches going and could attempt any of them in any situation.
Buchholz has been there, but he wasn't offering up a whole lot of empathy for his counterpart.
"I can't say I feel sorry for him, but at the same time, it's rough, because he was out there for 8 1/3 [innings] and going after something for so long and falling two outs short must be tough for him. But at the same time, he got the 'W.' "
Meanwhile, Buchholz was not so lucky this time around. He allowed six runs (five earned) on six hits throughout, and his record fell to 2-6 as a result.
But that's not to say Buchholz didn't show improvement in this outing. In fact, he put together four 1-2-3 innings, and despite a rough patch in the third and fourth, he kept the game relatively in reach.
"When he gets into a good rhythm, he's pretty good," catcher Jason Varitek said. "Sometimes, we've got to find a way back into it. It seems like his mistakes are magnified, and it gets him into more trouble than most."
At times, Buchholz looks like he's on the cusp of finding that rhythm. His speedy first two innings were indications of that. Still, it's not that easy to rectify, and Lackey's outing made it difficult to find answers.
"If I knew, I think I'd be 12-0 right now," he said. "I feel like I'm throwing more strikes, and even when I fall behind, I feel like I'm making better pitches to get back into the count."