Experience in 2007 helps Lester dominate Cardinals
Emotions different, but results similar in stellar World Series Game 1 outing
Barry M. Bloom
BOSTON -- Jon Lester is a different person, a more seasoned pitcher than he was in 2007 when he wrapped up that World Series for the Red Sox over the Rockies in Game 4 at Coors Field.
On Wednesday night in front of a raucous sellout home crowd at Fenway Park, Lester shut down the Cardinals on five hits and didn't allow a run in Game 1 of the current Fall Classic. When he left the lopsided 8-1 win with no one on and two out in the eighth, having thrown 112 pitches, it was to a huge standing ovation.
Lester only walked one and struck out eight. And the emotions compared to six years ago?
"I think it was very different," Lester said. "Obviously being at home helps amp everything up. Game 1 is a little bit different than being up 3-0 going into Game 4. The biggest thing is controlling those emotions, pitching under control, and trying not to throw the ball through the backstop. Just rely on location early on and try to get into that rhythm and execute some pitches to both sides of the plate. We were able to do that in the first inning and just go from there."
This was only the 17th time in the 109-year history of the World Series that a starter held the opposition scoreless for seven innings or more in a Game 1 victory. Lester was the third Red Sox pitcher to do it, joining Luis Tiant over the Reds in 1975 and Babe Ruth, who shut out the Cubs, 1-0, in 1918.
Thirteen of them were complete games and prior to Wednesday night, the last was Jose Rijo of the Reds, whipping the A's, 7-0, in the opener of the 1990 World Series.
Despite the Red Sox jumping out to a 5-0 lead after two innings, it was hardly an easy task for Lester, who had to pitch out of jams in the fourth and fifth innings before retiring the last nine Cardinals he faced.
Starters to hold opponent scoreless in Game 1 of the World Series
The fourth inning was the most dire threat as St. Louis loaded the bases with one out on a walk and a pair of singles. Let's let Red Sox manager John Farrell tell the story.
"The key to me was the double play in that fourth inning," he said. "The comebacker to him, that 1-2-3 double play. Then as Jon got deeper into the game he got his changeup into the mix a little more. It was just a solid, solid outing by him tonight."
It was David Freese who bounced the 2-1 pitch back to the mound. Lester tossed the ball to David Ross for the force and the catcher stepped across the plate and made an easy throw to Mike Napoli to nab Freese at first. Inning and threat over.
"Yeah, it was big," Lester said. "Obviously with us scoring some early runs there, especially during those middle innings I wanted to get as many shutdown innings as I could and get those guys back in the dugout. It got a little away from me, but I was fortunate enough to get a pitch down to Freese there and get a ground ball. Rossy did a great job making sure we got the first out at home and then made a good throw to Nap. That was a big inning for us to shut that down and not let any runs score."
In the fifth, the Cards had runners on second and third with two out when Jon Jay grounded out to shortstop Stephen Drew. Lester had no other issues the rest of the way.
"I don't think any one thing clicked," Lester said about how he coasted through his last few innings. "Early on I had a good rhythm. I kind of lost it a little in those middle innings, had some long at-bats and threw a lot of pitches. In the sixth inning, I just got right back out there and tried to do the things we were doing earlier in the game. I had some quick outs, so that was big. First-swing outs are huge this time of year."
Lester is now 2-0 in the World Series, having thrown 13 1/3 scoreless innings and allowing just eight hits. In 2007, he was a kid making a comeback from cancer getting a chance World Series start because of a right shoulder injury to veteran Tim Wakefield.
Now, Lester is simply the ace of the staff. But those experiences back then were essential to the way he pitched Wednesday night.
"I think just the preparation involved [helped]," he said. "Obviously there's going to be a lot of festivities -- the flyovers, the national anthems. Everything is quadrupled because it's the World Series. You know how to handle all those situations, your warmup time.
"Every game is a learning experience. Whether it's in the World Series or if it's April 15, you have to take something from it. And being in that situation in 2007 definitely prepared me for tonight."