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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Jon Lester throws first no-hitter by Red Sox lefty in 52 years

I can already hear all the hack writers turning out the Jon Lester biographies as we speak. The 24-year old lefty keeps adding better chapters as he threw a no-hitter last night at Fenway, defeating the Royals 7-0.

It was the first no-hitter by a Sox (28-19) left-handed pitcher since Mel Parnell back on July 14, 1956. It's been a whirlwind couple years for Lester, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma two years ago yet came back last season to pitch the clinching game of the World Series for Boston.

The front office of Boston also deserves plenty of props as Clay Buchholz (Sept. 1, 2007 vs. the Orioles) and now Lester-two of their prized young starters-have thrown no-hitters eight months apart. Johan Santana would certainly look great in a Red Sox uniform but the Red Sox never went through with a deal to acquire the Venezuelan ace, banking on their young players (including Jacoby Ellsbury) becoming solid contributors for years to come.

That's one of the biggest differences between the Sox and struggling Yankees at the moment. The Yanks also refused to give up Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy for Santana but those two guys have been terrible so far this season while most of the Yankee veterans are underachieving or simply proceeding on the down slope of their respective careers.

Enough about that, it was Lester's (3-2) night last night. The Red Sox scored five in the third to put it away in a game where Lester was untouchable.

Manny Ramirez had a bases loaded walk in the inning, Mike Lowell had a pop-up dropped by Royals (21-23) second baseman Mark Grudzielanek which scored two and Kevin Youkilis had a ground-rule double that scored Manny.

Royals starter Luke Hochevar (3-3) gave up seven runs (four earned) on five hits with six walks. Grudzielanek's error was a killer but Hochevar also couldn't find the plate at key times.

A no-hitter always has a defining moment defensively (think Pedroia's ridiculous stop and throw in Buchholz's no-no) and Jacoby Ellsbury (triple, run, 2 steals) provided it for Lester in center field. Ellsbury made a diving catch of a Jose Guillen sinking liner in the fourth.

Jason Varitek added a two-run homer in the sixth for good measure. The Captain also tied a MLB record by catching his fourth no-hitter (Hideo Nomo, Derek Lowe, Buchholz and Lester).

Lester seemed to get stronger as the game went on. He is usually his own worst enemy by walking too many batters and getting into jams. He walked only two last night and struck out nine. It was the first complete game of his career.

After walking Esteban German to lead off the ninth, Lester got Tony Pena Jr. and David Dejesus to ground out before striking out Alberto Callaspo with the final pitch of the game.

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