BOSTON – If Jon Lester felt the need to secure his position as an ace or his place in Red Sox postseason lore, he did so in Game 1 of the World Series against the Cardinals Wednesday night at Fenway Park.
The left-hander held the National League champion Cardinals scoreless over 7 2/3 innings, giving up five hits and walk, matching a postseason-career high with eight strikeouts as the Sox thrashed the Cards, 8-1
With the win, Lester becomes the winning pitcher in the last two Red Sox World Series games, including the clinching Game 4 of 2007. In two career World Series games, he has pitched 13 1/3 scoreless innings, giving up eight hits with four walks and 11 strikeouts.
He is the third pitcher in World Series history to post consecutive scoreless starts in his first two World Series outings. He joins Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson, who pitched three consecutive complete-game shutouts for the New York Giants in 1905, and San Francisco Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner, who pitched 15.0 scoreless innings in his first two World Series starts.
Against the Cardinals, Lester was helped by a five-run lead after two innings, thanks to some shoddy Cardinals defense, a Mike Napoli three-run double in the first, and two more runs in the second. The cushion allowed him to cruise through his outing. The Cardinals looked overmatched from the beginning. Lester needed just 12 pitches, 10 strikes, to get through the first inning.
Lester got five strikeouts with his cutter – including four called -- and one each on a curveball, fastball, and change-up. He is now 36-5 in the regular season and postseason combined when striking out eight or more batters, while the sox are 40-12 in those games.
After a two-out single to Matt Holliday in the first, he didn’t allow a base runner until a lead-off walk Jon Jay in the third. After striking out Holliday, Lester allowed consecutive singles to Allen Craig and Yadier Molina to load the bases. But Lester got a comebacker from David Freese for a 1-2-3 double play to end the inning and the Cardinals best scoring chance off Lester.
“I think the way they came out aggressively swinging at his fastball early in the count, I thought he and [catcher] David [Ross] did a very good job of getting his curveball in the mix a little bit more, to create a little more separation in his pitches in terms of velocity,” manager John Farrell said. “Once he was able to establish that, I thought he had a very good cutter, particularly some backdoor cutters to some right‑handers.
“And the key to me was the double play in that fourth inning. Comebacker to him, the 1‑2‑3 double play. And as he got deeper into the game, he got his change‑up in the mix a little more. Just a solid, solid outing by Jon tonight.”
In the fifth, St. Louis had runners on second and third with two outs, but Jay grounded out to end the inning. After that, he retired the next seven in a row until giving way to Junichi Tazawa with two outs in the eighth.
“We know how aggressive they can be at times,” said Lester, who now has five career postseason wins, the most ever by a Sox left-hander, tied with Josh Beckett for third-most overall behind Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez with six each.
“And late in the game they tried to slow some things down and take some pitches after that. So we wanted to set the tone and get them swinging. That's important for my game as far as getting that fastball and cutter involved, and make sure that they're not able to just lock in and key on certain areas on me.
“[Getting out of the fourth] was big. Obviously with us scoring some early runs there, just wanted to ‑‑ especially in the middle innings, get some shut‑down innings, and get the guys back in the dugout. That one got a little away from me, but was fortunate enough to get a pitch down to Freese there and get a ground ball. Rossy did a great job of making sure that we got the first one at home and then made a good throw to Nap.
“So that was obviously a big inning for us and to shut that down and not let any runs score.”
Lester had the Cardinals on their heels right from the start and throughout his outing.
“He did everything he had to do,” said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. “He kept us off balance and made pitches all night. And so that's kind of what we expected and we just expected for us to, one, obviously put some runs on the board, but also keep them off. We had a tough time doing the latter.”
“He's a big‑time pitcher,” said Napoli. “We have all the confidence in the world when he's out there throwing the baseball. He did a great job tonight, we were able to get him a couple of runs early. And he settled in and pitched awesome.”
In 10 postseason starts, Lester has a 2.07 ERA. He's given up 15 earned runs in 65 1/3 innings, the fourth-lowest career mark by a Sox pitcher with at least 30 postseason innings, behind Babe Ruth (0.87), Ernie Shore (1.82), and Bill Dineen (2.06).
Lester is the first starting pitcher to win consecutive World Series games for one team since Hall of Famer Bob Gibson won Game 7 in 1967 and Game 1 in 1968.
For Lester, this World Series win was very different from his previous, when he was just 23 and returning to the team after beating cancer, starting the clinching game against the Rockies in Colorado.
“Obviously being at home obviously helps amp everything up,” he said. “Game 1 is a little bit different than up 3‑0 going into Game4. I think the biggest thing is just being able to control those emotions and pitch under control, and not try to throw the ball through the backstop. Just rely on location early on and try to get into that rhythm, try to get your feet under you, get your legs under you, execute some pitches to both sides of the plate. And we were able to do that in the first inning, and then just went from there.”
Lester's Game 1 gem etches itself into Sox lore
October 24, 2013, 1:15 am