Saturday, July 3, 2010
Lester remains perfect vs. Orioles
By Joe McDonald
BOSTON -- There are a few things missing from Jon Lester's resume.
The left-handed pitcher for the Red Sox has already won the biggest prize in professional baseball when he helped Boston win the World Series in 2007 in a four-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies. But he has never played in an All-Star Game. That could change Sunday when Major League Baseball announces this summer's American and National League All-Star teams.
Lester tossed seven innings and allowed only one run on five hits to lead the Red Sox to a 9-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday night at Fenway Park. He improves to 10-3 this season with a 2.76 ERA and has reached double-digit wins for the third consecutive season. He's won seven of his last nine starts (7-1), posting a 1.85 ERA with 64 strikeouts (19 walks) during that span.
All in all, he should be an All-Star.
"Obviously it would be nice," said Lester. "I've never been and would like to go. If not, it'll be a nice break, a needed break. If I end up going, it'll be awesome and I'll be very excited. It'll be an honor and I'll try to represent the Red Sox as best as I can. If not, I'm not going to be heartbroken. It's a long season and we've got a long way to go and I care more about what we do here than out there."
There's also a good possibility Lester could be the starting pitcher for the AL squad July 13 in Anaheim if he is elected to the AL team, but he's staying focused on his next start.
"[Starting] would be awesome. It would be exciting and a lot of fun, but I don't know what to tell you," he said. "It would be an honor, but the biggest thing, and it sounds bad, the biggest thing is I'm worried about Toronto on Friday. That's my next start and that's what I have to worry about."
Saturday night against the Orioles was another example of Lester's consistency.
With the win, he is 12-0 with a 2.00 ERA in his career against Baltimore, which is the longest current winning streak by any active pitcher against any team.
What made Lester's 10th win of the season even more impressive is the fact he was working with a somewhat new battery mate behind the plate.
With both Victor Martinez (thumb) and Jason Varitek (foot) on the disabled list, the club re-acquired catcher Kevin Cash on Thursday via trade with the Houston Astros. Cash, who spent part of the '07 season and all of the '08 season with the Red Sox, was behind the dish for Tim Wakefield in Friday's win and again for Lester on Saturday.
During his pregame meeting with Lester and pitching coach John Farrell, Cash was told of the pitcher's success rate with his changeup this season. It's a pitch Lester has developed since Cash last worked with him.
"He was outstanding," Cash said. "He's almost a different pitcher. He's always had the stuff, but the changeup tonight, I didn't really see that the last stint here. To be able to go to that pitch in fastball counts is amazing.
"It's a much more usable pitch now. When I was here two years ago, it was kind of like try to mix it in and work it in and get him to throw it. Now he's throwing it in big situations. After I caught his bullpen I had a pretty good feeling it improved that much."
There is a strong bond between a pitcher and a catcher. Both Lester and Cash spent time at Triple-A Pawtucket for different reasons in 2007. Lester was on his way back after beating cancer and Cash was trying to make it back to the big leagues.
Both were critical components to the Red Sox's World Series title.
Cash was called up late in the season after then-backup catcher Doug Mirabelli was injured. Lester was 4-0 in 12 starts after his return to Boston and ultimately was the winning pitcher in Game 4 of the Fall Classic.
"That was a blur because in '07 he ended up pitching Game 4 of the World Series and winning," said Cash. "That story we talked about all the time then, but what he has done is unbelievable. I know the All-Star talk is going on right now and what he's done for this club over the last three years, he's pretty invaluable."
On Saturday, Cash had the best seat in the house and was blown away how different of a pitcher Lester has become.
"Just the person he is, it's just awesome," Cash said. "I got here and it looks like he's put on 25 pounds since I left. He's huge and he works as hard as anybody on this team, and he's always done that. When Jon's out there, the confidence he gives our dugout is amazing."
The feeling was mutual.
"It's great. It's like he hasn't left," Lester said. "There are a few things we didn't get on the same page with early on [Saturday night] but he's good. He's always been a good game-caller and a good catcher. He did a great job tonight. It's his first game back and he hasn't caught a side of mine in a couple of years, with that being said he did a great job getting me and him on the same page."
Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox and Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.