No-hitters are not uncommon in baseball. In any given season you maybe get two, possibly three. It’s not like the no-hitter is a perfect game (17 since MLB has been keeping stats) or the unassisted triple play (the rarest of feats with only 14 accomplished since records have been kept), but when you are a Cancer-survivor, only a year removed from treatment, it is something beyond special.
It is a benchmark, like Lance Armstrong or Mario Lemieux before him, that Jon Lester has set; not just for other pitchers but for Cancer survivors and those going through treatment everywhere. Last night Jon Lester told the world that yes, anything is indeed possible. Cancer is not necessarily an end.
In a baseball season quickly becoming remembered for the illicit actions of past players like the detestable Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, it is moments like last night that remind us why we love baseball.
And Lester? He’s looked like a 24-year-old former wunderkind in the middle of a learning curve. He’s physically stronger now that he’s further removed from cancer treatments, and he has added a changeup to complement his fastball, curveball and cutter. But he entered the game with a 2-2 record, a 3.95 ERA and 33 strikeouts and 29 walks.
Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury‘s diving catch on Guillen’s blooper in the fourth will be remembered as the no-hit saver in much the same way Dustin Pedroia‘s spectacular defense preserved Buchholz’s no-hitter against Baltimore in September. But it was impossible to overlook the contribution of catcher Jason Varitek, who did the usual mind-meld with his pitcher on the way to catching his fourth career no-hitter. “Every pitcher has complete trust in what he calls,” Farrell said when reached by phone Monday night, “and that allows guys to relax so that their best stuff comes out.”
Catcher Jason Varitek has now caught four no-hitters by four different pitchers, which is, I believe a record.? But the story of the night is the Red Sox pitcher.? He may never be a Cy Young Award winner (so often those who throw no-hitters seem to not be Cy Young Award winners and vice versa [remember Nolan Ryan, he of seven no-hitters never won the Cy Young Award!?!]) but Lester will slot in nicely to the middle of the rotation for years to come.? Very good and reliable third and fourth starters are what helps build championships.
When the game ended, the no-hitter no longer in doubt, manager Terry Francona came onto the field and hugged the pitcher like a dad would his son.? Hugging the breath right out of him.? Lester shared the essence of their conversation in an on-field TV interview.
“He said he was proud of me,” Lester said. “We’ve been through a lot the last couple of years, and he’s been like a second dad to me. It’s just a special moment right there.”
Photo credit: (Jim Davis/Boston Globe)