BOSTON – Believe it or not, it’s been almost five years since Jon Lester no-hit the Royals on May 19, 2008, at Fenway Park.
Lester flirted with history again Friday night, carrying a perfect game against the Blue Jays through 5 2/3 innings. But Jays No. 9 hitter Maicer Izturis broke up Lester’s bid for perfection on the first pitch of sixth-inning at-bat, lashing a double down the left field line.
The left-hander lost his bid for a perfect game, but kept his record perfect, improving to 5-0 with a 2.73 ERA as the Sox beat the Jays, 5-0.
Lester pitched a complete game, the Sox’ first since Clay Buchholz went nine innings against the Indians on Aug. 10.
Lester struck out five, including two in the ninth, striking out his final batter Adam Lind on a cutter.
Meanwhile Jays right-hander Ramon Ortiz, who last faced the Sox in 2004 and last started against the Sox on Aug. 7, 2003, at Fenway, kept Sox batters in check. Making his second appearance and first start of the season for the Blue Jays, went five innings, giving up one run on four hits and five walks (one intentional) with one strikeout.
In the second Daniel Nava reached on a one-out walk, taking third on Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s single, and scoring when shortstop Maicer Izturis committed an error on Will Middlebrooks’ groundball.
But the Sox scored four runs in the seventh inning off a pair of Blue Jays relievers, when they sent eight batters to the plate. Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino, and Dustin Pedroia opened the inning with consecutive singles off Brett Cecil, with Ellsbury scoring. After striking out David Ortiz, Cecil’s outing was done, with Mickey Storey replacing him. Storey struck out Mike Napoli before consecutive doubles by Daniel Nava and Jarrod Saltalamacchia scored three runs, giving Boston a 4-0 lead.
Ortiz took the loss, falling to 0-1, with a 3.24 ERA.
STAR OF THE GAME: Jon Lester
Lester carried a perfect game thru 5 2/3 innings, before Jays No. 9 hitter Maicer Izturis doubled down the left field line. That was the only baserunner he allowed in the complete game.
It was his first complete game since an Aug. 30 loss in Oakland. It was his third career shutout, and first since July 3, 2008, in Yankee Stadium. He had gone 149 starts between shutouts. It was the first complete game by a Sox pitcher this season, and the first since Aaron Cook’s in Seattle on June 29, 2012.
Lester retired the Jays on six pitches in the first innings and needed just 58 pitches to get through the first five innings.
He was the first Red Sox left-hander to allow one or fewer hits a complete game since he threw his no-hitter on May 19, 2008, and was the first Sox left-hander to allow exactly one hit in a complete game since Frank Viola on Sept. 30, 1992, at Toronto. .The last Sox left-hander to allow exactly one hit in a complete game effort at Fenway was Roger Moret on Aug. 21, 1974 against the White Sox. It was the first time since at least 1916 that a Sox lefty has held opponents to one or fewer hits without allowing a walk in a complete game.
Lester improved to 5-0 in 8 starts this season and lowered his ERA to 2.73.
It was was the 90th of his career, moving past Babe Ruth, with 89, for sole possession of 5th all-time among Sox left-handers.
HONORABLE MENTION: Daniel Nava
Nava went 1-for-3 with a two runs scored, two RBI, and a double. He scored the first Sox run of the game.
He drove in two runs in the seventh inning and now leads the team with an average of just 4.39 at-bats per RBI, with 101 at-bats and 23 RBI.
THE GOAT: Brett Cecil
With the Sox leading by just one run, Cecil relieved Ortiz in the sixth inning. He went 1 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on four hits with one strikeout.
THE TURNING POINT
Although Lester was perfect through 5 2/3 innings, when Izturis broke that up with a double, the Sox were leading by just one run. Adam Lind followed him, pinch-hitting for Rajai Davis. But Lind struck out to end the sixth. That was all the offense the Jays could muster against Lester in the game.
BY THE NUMBERS: 28
Lester faced 28 Jays batters, just one of the minimum.
QUOTE OF NOTE:
"My job was easy. I put the glove there and he hit it. " --Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia