On a cool New England night in a packed house at Fenway Monday, Jon Lester became the 18th Red Sox pitcher to fire a no hitter and the first Boston left-hander since Mel Parnell in 1956.
The impressive feat came just eight months after then rookie Clay Bucholz fired the 17th no hitter in franchise history, in just his second major league start, powering the Sox to a 10-0 victory over the Orioles.
The ever-struggling Kansas City Royals were the victim Monday, as Lester threw 86 strikes of 130 pitches thrown, by far the highest pitch count of his adolescent career.
Pitch No. 130 was by far the sweetest of them all, as Lester reached back and blew a 96-mph fastball by Alberto Callaspo to seal the deal.
Yes, Lester was still throwing in the mid-90s after eight-and-two-thirds innings of no-hit baseball.
The impressive feat that is a “no-no” could not have been delivered by a more deserving young ball player.
Lester, 24, has already endured more than some people have in an entire lifetime. More important than having endured, Jon has overcome his obstacles with flying colors.
In late August of 2006, the Tacoma, Wash. native had to be scratched from a start against Oakland, due to back soreness. Lester and team doctors believed the lower back pain was caused by a car crash Jon sustained earlier that month.
Just a few days later, doctors from Massachusetts General Hospital diagnosed the southpaw with a treatable form of large-cell lymphoma.
The promising left-hander no-hit cancer, the same way he did the Royals, and was informed by Boston doctors that the disease was in remission by December of the same year.
Lester re-joined the Sox rotation on July 23, 2007 as he picked up the win at Jacobs Field, allowing two runs and five hits against the Tribe.
It was a special game for the Lester family to witness that Cleveland night—for the first time in almost a year, young Jonathan was battling major league hitters and not cancerous cells.
There is no doubt that Lester’s return performance in Cleveland was a gutsy one, but none of his 2007 starts were as impressive as the one Jon delivered in game four of the World Series.
Teammate Curt Schilling called Lester’s win in the decisive game 4 4-3 victory over the Rockies, the “clutch-iest” performance he had ever witnessed.
In February of 2008, Lester showed up to spring training with a fuller, stronger frame, nearly a year removed from cancer treatments that wear any man down, even the strongest.
His numbers haven’t been stellar this season, 3-2 with a 3.41 ERA, at least in comparison to his near-perfect (Lester allowed two walks) performance Monday night.
Lester’s career numbers, one the other hand, a 14-4 record with a 4.28 ERA, are quite stellar for a 24-year-old in just his third season in the majors.
Following a less than impressive pre-game bullpen outing Monday afternoon, Lester wasn’t sure he would make it through the first inning against the Royals.
With a little help from the impressive defense behind him, most especially center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury’s diving catch in the fourth inning, Lester sent down 27 of the 29 batters he faced, walking the other two.
Give some of the credit to crafty veteran Jason Varitek, who caught his fourth career no-hitter on Monday.
But certainly most of the credit must go to the Lester, who was given a gift left arm and the ability to pitch at the major league level, only to have it nearly taken away by a deadly disease.