By Jimmy Golen
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
BOSTON, May 19 -- Jon Lester has survived cancer and pitched a World Series clincher for the Boston Red Sox.
Now he can add a no-hitter to his already amazing list of accomplishments.
The 24-year-old lefty shut down Kansas City, 7-0, on Monday night for the first no-hitter in the majors since Red Sox rookie Clay Buchholz threw one last September.
It was Lester's first major league complete game. And what a way to do it.
"You don't feel tired in that situation. You've got so much adrenaline going," he said. "I'm sure it will hit me in the morning."
Lester (3-2) allowed just two base runners, walking Billy Butler in the second inning and Esteban German to open the ninth; he also had an error when he threw away a pickoff attempt.
Lester struck out nine, fanning Alberto Callaspo to end the game before pumping both fists in the air.
Catcher Jason Varitek, who has been behind the plate for a record-tying four no-hitters, lifted his pitcher into the air. Manager Terry Francona gave a long, hard embrace to Lester, who missed the end of the 2006 season after a rare form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma was diagnosed.
"I've been through a lot the last couple of years. He's been like a second dad to me," Lester said of Francona. "It was just a special moment right there."
Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury made a diving catch of Jos¿ Guill¿n's line drive to end the fourth -- the best defensive play of the night. Lester also got help from first baseman Kevin Youkilis, who made a nice scoop on shortstop Julio Lugo's throw after David DeJesus hit a grounder in the third.
The fans at sold-out Fenway Park held their enthusiasm until the final out of the seventh, rising to their feet when Lester fanned Guill¿n on a 93 mph fastball. They remained standing for the entire ninth inning, even as German walked and moved around to third base when Tony Pe¿a and DeJesus grounded out.
With cameras flashing and the fans screaming at full throat, Callaspo fell behind 0-2. He took a ball and fouled one off before reaching for a high and outside 1-2 fastball to end the game.
"I was trying to do what I could do," Callaspo said. "You had to . . . try to get the bat on the ball."
Lester and Varitek were mobbed by teammates running out of the dugout as the speakers played "Tessie," the victory anthem the Red Sox adopted through two World Series titles in four seasons. Lester was instrumental in the second championship, less than a year after chemotherapy cured his cancer, when he earned the victory in Game 4 at Colorado to complete the Red Sox' sweep.
"I can't tell you which one means more to me than the other," Lester said. "The World Series is, obviously, the World Series. How many people get to say they've won that? And a no-hitter is a no-hitter. How many people can say they've done that?
"So they're both up there. They both mean a heck of a lot to me, and something I'll cherish for a long time."
Mel Parnell was the last Red Sox lefty to throw a no-hitter, beating the Chicago White Sox on July 14, 1956. Varitek also caught Buchholz's no-hitter, along with gems by Hideo Nomo and Derek Lowe. The White Sox' Ray Schalk also caught four no-hitters, between 1914 and 1922.
"It's so exciting to be part of one. Each one is so different," said Varitek, who handed Lester the ball from the final pitch but didn't have much to say. "Just let him enjoy the moment."
Lester, who was the prime prospect in offseason trade talks to bring Johan Santana to Boston, hugged Francona and then tipped his hat to the fans for one more big cheer.
"He's a wonderful kid, not because he threw a no-hitter. He's a good kid because he's a good kid," Francona said. "We're proud of him all the time but to watch him do that tonight was beyond words."