Stars nearly align for Lester in one-hitter

Stars nearly align for Lester in one-hitter
May 11, 2013, 12:00 am
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BOSTON --  Jon Lester didn’t get the perfect game, the elusive holy grail for pitchers.
One hit – a double by Maicer Izturis, the Blue Jays No. 9 batter, past third baseman Will Middlebrooks down the left field line, with two outs in the sixth inning – took care of that. Izturis was the only base runner Lester allowed in his complete game shutout.
"It's more the location to the stuff and the feel that he had for his changeup in the early part of the game,” said manager John Farrell. “It wasn't a matter of the just pure stuff it was more the location and his ability to change speeds."
Ironically, though, it was the changeup, on the first pitch, that Izturis hit to break up Lester’s bid for perfection.
Asked if he was disappointed not to be able to add a perfect game to the resume that includes a no-hitter almost exactly five years ago, Lester let out a rueful laugh.
“The no-hitter, perfect game, all that stuff, the stars got to be perfectly aligned for you,” Lester said. “It’s got to happen. It is what it is. If that happens, if that ball’s two feet to Will's left, it’s right at him.
“So it’s one of those deals, you can’t pitch to that. You got to pitch your game, keep attacking. The ball that izturis hit was a first-pitch changeup down and away. Good pitch, what we wanted to throw especially to an aggressive hitter. He did a good job of hitting it.”
Lester and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia had a game plan: try to be aggressive against an aggressive-swinging team.
"That's what we've been trying to do, try to get the ball over the plate early, get some swings,” Saltalamacchia said. “My job was easy. I put the glove there and he hit it. "
Lester no-hit the Royals on May 19, 2008, at Fenway Park, in his first full season in the big leagues. This game felt much different than that game the lefty said.
“I think it’s complete opposites,” Lester said. “I feel like back then [I was] a thrower, not really a pitcher. I think the best way to put it is effectively wild for my no-hitter. Trying to go down and away we’d go up and in and they’d hit a fly ball somewhere. Just not really understanding what was going on, just throwing the ball, throwing what [catcher Jason Varitek] calls and see what happens.
“Now obviously going through this a couple of times and a little bit more mature and understanding what I’m trying to do, I feel like I pitch a lot more than I throw. I think they’re apples and oranges.”
Lester established early on what kind of a night it would be. He needed just six pitches to retire the Blue Jays in the first inning. Through five innings, he needed just 58 pitches, 39 for strikes.
He had just a tenuous 1-0 lead to work with until his offense broke out for four runs in the seventh. Still, with the way he was dominating the struggling Jays, it seemed clear the one run would be plenty.
Although he was not able to put a perfect game in the record books, Lester kept his record for the season perfect, as the Sox beat the Jays, 5-0, improving his record to 5-0, with an ERA of 2.73. As much as anything, that’s what Lester wanted to do coming into the season.
After a dismal 2012, he had a chip on his shoulder.
“It’s been good,” he said. “Any time you come into the season you want to get off to a good start and with that being said, we got a long way to go.  I got to keep preaching to myself and have [pitching coach] Juan [Nieves] preach to me things we’ve talked about since day one. And not let start 25 affect start 8 or 9. And really focus on the next one. And when that one’s over you focus on the next one.
“And that’s really the only way I can be successful. When I start worrying about I got a start against the Yankees in July or whatever it is, my mind’s wandering on what I need to do. So the biggest thing is just try to stay as focused as you can on the next one and so far it’s worked out for me.”