BOSTON – If careers are built on postseason success, left-hander Jon Lester could already be on his way to a place in Boston Red Sox lore.
Lester was once again at his best when it mattered most Wednesday night, shutting out the St. Louis Cardinals for 7 2/3 innings as the Red Sox romped to an 8-1 victory in Game 1.
"He's a big-stage pitcher," said catcher David Ross. "He's been doing it all year, especially when he's gone up against other aces, he's been lights out for us."
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Lester gave up just five hits and a walk in outdueling the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright, fanning eight batters and throwing 76 of his 112 pitches for strikes.
The one sticky situation Lester had – bases loaded, one out in the fourth – he escaped with a ground ball back to the mound. He went home to Ross, who threw to first to complete the inning-ending double play.
"Humongous," Ross said when asked about the importance of getting out of the inning unscathed. "Just that swing of being up 5-0 it's still early enough in the ballgame if they score one, they're only a grand slam away.
"It was a huge play. A huge swing point in the game."
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From that point on, Lester had the game – and the Cardinals – seemingly in hand.
"I thought he and David did a very good job of getting his curveball in the mix a little bit more, to create a little more separation in his pitches in terms of velocity," manager John Farrell said. "Just a solid, solid outing by Jon tonight."
In the process, Lester became only the third pitcher in history to have consecutive scoreless appearances in his first two World Series starts.
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The last time the Red Sox were in the Fall Classic, Lester was a 23-year-old who was just coming back from being treated for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of a blood cancer that cost him part of the 2006 and 2007 seasons.
But he rejoined the team and the starting rotation – and was the Game 4 starter and winner as the Red Sox swept the Colorado Rockies in the 2007 Series.
"Every game is a learning experience, and you learn from each game, whether it's in the World Series or if it's April 15, you've got to take something from it," Lester said. "And being in that situation in 2007 definitely prepared me for tonight."
It's perhaps not a coincidence that Lester has been at his best most recently while working with Ross behind the plate.
"They've really developed I think a really good rapport," Farrell said. "Their ability to read swings and make adjustments from at-bat to at-bat each time through the lineup, we did it in the two games that Jon pitched in Detroit."
Lester said he and Ross have developed "a little bit of a routine together" and it's working to perfection.
Lester has been outstanding so far in this postseason, with a 3-1 record in four starts and a 1.67 ERA. He'll be in line to take the ball again in Game 5, if necessary, when he'll look to build on his already-impressive postseason resume.
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