Lester adds no-hitter to unbelievable tale
The conga line to congratulate Jon Lester on his no-hitter had formed, and one of his Boston Red Sox teammates, caught up in the moment and oblivious to the long-range microphone on the TV broadcast, said what everyone else was thinking.
“Un-(bleeping)-believable,” the teammate said. “Unbelievable.”
As much as that summed up the night on which Lester turned the Kansas City Royals’ bats to swizzle sticks in a 7-0 victory, it applies more appropriately to the past year of his life, where the no-hitter stands out as merely his third-greatest accomplishment.
Which is rather remarkable, because the 24-year-old Lester was great Monday night, his final pitch dashing across the plate at 96 mph, the hardest he threw all evening, Alberto Callaspo nothing more than the patsy to swing and miss. It set off a celebration reminiscent of last October, when the left-handed Lester started Game 4 of the World Series and locked down the Colorado Rockies for five shutout innings, earning the championship-clinching win in his first postseason start.
And still, not even that registers as Lester’s coup de grace. He beat cancer last year. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, diagnosed in late 2006 because of a sore back that he thought stemmed from a car crash. Lester fought it into remission and worked himself back into baseball shape. On this day last year, he pitched at Triple-A Pawtucket and threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings. In July, he returned to Boston. By the end of October, he was getting fitted for a World Series ring.
His story is one of perseverance and triumph and everything else that deserves a sappy soundtrack. Most of all, it’s of strength, of Lester building up enough stamina to throw 130 pitches, as many as any starter has thrown since the 2006 season, and saving his best for last.