Wow. Wow, wow, wow. I would say that I don’t even know where to start, but the truth is that I’m going to start where it’s obviously proper to start: Jon Lester. This, unequivocally, was one of Jon Lester’s best-pitched games all year so far. The start to this season has taught us that, as go our starters, so goes the team, and the team went with Lester and gave him everything he needed: good fielding and good hitting. Absolutely nothing went wrong yesterday. It was amazing.
Anyway, let’s get back to Lester, the undisputed man of the hour. Lester went the distance. You read right. He pitched a complete game. His nine-inning effort required only 119 pitches, seventy-three of which were strikes. He posted a total of six K’s and walked absolutely nobody. He gave up eight hits and only one run.
He went one-two-three in the first, second, third, fifth, and eighth. He gave up one single in the fourth, two in the sixth, and three in the seventh. He was two outs away from a complete shutout performance, but besides that first out in the ninth, he had given up a single and a double, and a run scored on a groundout.
Let’s go through the six strikeouts, just because it’s fun and Lester is awesome. His first one sent down the first batter he faced; it lasted five pitches and ended with a fastball. His second occurred in the second inning, was three pitches, and ended with a curveball. His third occurred in the third, was five pitches, and ended with a sinker. His fourth occurred in the eighth, was three pitches, and ended with a changeup. And his last two occurred in the ninth; the first was four pitches and ended with a curveball, and the second was six pitches and ended with a fastball. Of the six strikeouts, all but one were swing-and-misses, the one being a foul tip.
While we’re at it, let’s break down his other outs as well. Ten were groundouts, six were popups, three were flyouts, and there was one double play.
And last but not least, let’s break down his pitches. He used an exceptionally deadly cut fastball as well as a remarkably effective curveball, changeup, and sinker. He mixed his pitches expertly and changed speeds rapidly and fluidly. Obviously he was also efficient: he threw fourteen pitches in the first, nine in the second (all but one of which were strikes), ten in the third, fifteen in the fourth, seven in the fifth, eleven in the sixth, twenty-one in the seventh, ten in the eighth, and twenty-two in the ninth. He was so on, and his stuff looked so good, and his pitches were so sharp and so precise in their location, movement, and execution that I knew he was going to do something big tonight. Most of the time, something big for Lester would be a no-hitter, which we’ve seen, or something on that level. With the way this team’s been playing, something big was a complete game that we won in and of itself; just because he gave up eight hits and one run should not diminish take away from the fact that it was still a big accomplishment and one of the best efforts we’ve seen from him. (It was Ichiro Suzuki, obviously, who ended any possibility of a no-hitter with two out in the fourth; the ball came back to Lester and bounced off his glove, ironically enough.) Actually, if Lester had been able to preserve the shutout, it would have been his first complete-game shutout since his no-no on May 19, 2008. Lester is the only member of the staff to have thrown a complete game this year; his first was an eight-inning effort that resulted in a loss.
Thus, while it is true that he did average almost one hit per inning, he managed to do so without allowing the Mariners to cause any damage by capitalizing on any of them. If they allowed a hit, with limited exceptions they failed to build on it. If they built on it, with one exception they failed to convert the potential rally. In short, Lester was phenomenally stellar.
And now for the offense, since without it it’s possible that we would have lost by a final score of 1-0 even with Lester’s best efforts. (Seriously, coming into yesterday’s game he was the least supported of all our starters.) In the first, Pedroia walked and scored on a double by Papi, who scored on a double by Gonzalez. Ross opened the fourth with a single, and then Nava smacked a two-run jack on the first pitch of the at-bat, a fastball pretty much right down the pipe, into the first row of the Monster seats, and he did it from the right side. It was the second home run of his career and the first since his first-ever-Major-League-at-bat grand slam in 2010. One out later, Shoppach got in on the home-run action with a jack of his own completely over the Green Monster into Lansdowne Street, this one on a changeup that remained up. It was actually the first home run of his career. We scored our last run in the eighth; after Gonzalez flied out to start things off, Middlebrooks singled, Ross doubled, Nava walked intentionally to load the bases, and all Byrd could muster was a sac fly that scored one. Shoppach then grounded out to end the threat, but all in all it was enough.
We won, 6-1. Five our nine hits were for extra bases. Ross and Shoppach each went two for four. The only members of the lineup who went hitless were Aviles and Pedroia, although Pedroia did work one of the team’s four walks. But in addition to the fact that we had good offense and good fielding and good pitching was the fact that the team looked like it won as a team. Lately, during the past few games, we’ve either won as a team or lost as a team, and no matter what the outcome, that’s really the way you want to play. I just hope it lasts this time.