World Series 2013: The mastery of Jon Lester

October 29, 2013

(EPA/JOHN G. MABANGLO)

In Boston’s 3-1 win Monday over the Cardinals that put them on the brink of winning a World Series, designated hitter David Ortiz continued his torrid hitting ways, smacking three hits, including a run-scoring double, raising his series average to .733. Back-up catcher David Ross and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury each had run-scoring hits in the seventh inning that broke open a tie game. But perhaps the most dominant performance of the game was that of left-handed starter Jon Lester.

Lester may not have gotten as much attention as other starting pitchers this postseason, but he has been maybe the most consistent and the best. He has started five games in this year’s playoffs, including the first game of every series, and has posted this dominant stat line: a 4-1 record, a 1.56 ERA, eight walks and 29 strikeouts. When the Red Sox swept the Colorado Rockies in 2007 World Series, Lester had recently beaten non-Hodgkins lymphoma and fired 5 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 4. His pitching in the 2008 and 2009 playoffs wasn’t as strong. His efforts in 2013 have been the best of his career.

Lester has twice beaten the Cardinals, who struggle against left-handed pitching. His hard low-90s fastball paired with his sharp cutters fooled the Cardinals hitters again. His only mistake over 7 2/3 innings was a solo home run he served up to Matt Holliday. Lester was so efficient and brilliant he needed only 91 pitches to pitch into the eighth inning while allowing four hits and striking out seven. He has pitched Boston to two of their three World Series wins and one more win away from their third title this decade.

Imagine if Lester hadn’t been on this team.

In the offseason, the Red Sox were exploring a trade that could have sent Lester to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for big-time outfield prospect Wil Meyers. Lester even acknowledged in early October that he had checked with Royals Manager Ned Yost, an old friend of his, about if there was indeed truth to the trade rumors. Meyers was eventually traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in a seven-player trade that centered on right-handed starter James Shields. Lester, obviously, remained with the Red Sox and posted a 3.75 ERA over 213 1/3 innings this year, the fifth time in six years he has hit that 200-inning plateau. And, in October, he has put his team even closer to another World Series title.

More coverage from the Post

David Ortiz drills three hits and Jon Lester beats St. Louis for a second time to take a 3-2 lead in the World Series, writes Barry Svrluga. Notebook: Kolten Wong affected by misstep, Allen Craig playing.

Fenway Park gives Boston a huge home-field advantage in Games 6 and 7, writes Thomas Boswell.

James Wagner joined the Post in August 2010 and, prior to covering the Nationals, covered high school sports across the region.
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