CHICAGO -- It wasn't a perfect road trip for the Red Sox, but it was close.
The Sox won their first six games on the trip, sweeping three from the Minnesota Twins and the first three from the Chicago White Sox before falling 4-1 Sunday in the final game of the trek.
A win Sunday would have given the team its best road trip since 1977, when the Sox were 9-0 on a West Coast trip. But 6-1 is nothing to toss back.
"The guys played their butts off," said manager Bobby Valentine. "This was a tough seven days. We battled the travel, battled the weather. They're a tough group."
When the Red Sox left Boston a week ago, they had lost five straight, topped by a debacle against the Yankees in which they failed to preserve a 9-0 lead.
But as it turned out, the time on the road was good for the Red Sox. They got out from underneath the scrutiny of playing at home and found themselves, gaining confidence with each successive win.
"It was a pretty good road trip as a team," said Josh Beckett, who took the only loss on the trip. "Anytime you can sweep one (series) and take three-out-of-four in another one . . . Four-game series are tough enough. Their pitchers get to see our hitters a lot more than our hitters get to see their pitchers."
"I'm really happy for the guys and the way we played this whole road trip after a tough homestand," said outfielder Cody Ross. "We played our hearts out. It would have been nice to sweep the whole road trip, but realistically, that's tough to do. But it gives us a lot of confidence to get back home and we're all excited to get back home."
The offense carried the way earlier in the trip as the Sox averaged eight runs per game in the sweep against the Twins before reaching double figures in runs scored in each of the first two games at U.S. Cellular Field.
In Chicago, the pitching staff took over, allowing a total of 10 runs in the four games.
"This week, it seemed like things were coming together nicely," said Valentine, "mainly because of the starting pitching, obviously. And the bullpen fell in nicely."
Indeed, the Sox got four quality starts in a row in the final four games of the trip from Felix Doubront, Daniel Bard, Jon Lester and Josh Beckett.
Moreover, the bullpen, which seemed in tatters on the homestand, allowed just two earned runs over 17 innings of work on the trip.
"Those things ended up working themselves out in the bullpen," said Beckett. "Those guys are going to be fine."
"We knew it would just take a good winning streak to get right back where we need to be," said Ross. "It's starting to come together now. We've played 21 games now and we're starting to figure out our team and hopefully now we can just start rolling."
"We're feeling comfortable with things," concluded Valentine. "It's still a work in progress, I believe."
But light years better than it was only a week ago.