Top Moments '09: No. 7 - Lester's Bid for Perfection


June 6th was a pretty good day.


The Red Sox came into a game against the Rangers half a game back of the Yankees in the East. By the end of the day, they would have a half game lead. The game in between had a little bit of everything.


I had a loge seat down the 3rd base line that day. I got to see David Ortiz hit his second home run of the season—long overdue, but much appreciated none-the-less. In the second inning, I got to see Mike Lowell hit an instant replay homer that bounced off the ledge in front of the monster seats. The guys sitting up there spent the whole time pointing at the ledge and shouting at the field. It was a pretty balanced offensive attack by the Red Sox, scoring 8 runs on 9 hits, with everyone but Nick Green reaching base at least once.

 

As for the Texas Rangers, Michael Young was 2-4. And that was it. Because Jon Lester pitched one ridiculous game of baseball.

 

 

It was pretty clear Lester had it going on early. He sat down Ian Kinsler and Michael Young on 4 pitches total before striking out Andruw Jones on 5 in the first. In the second, it only got easier, getting Marlon Byrd and Brandon Boggs to ground out on 1 pitch a piece after striking out Nelson Cruz on a 96 MPH heater.


After the third inning, the crowd started to get an idea that something unique could happen here. Lester had just K'd Chris Davis and Salty for his 3rd and 4th strikeouts of the game. Jon had taken 25 pitches to run through their entire lineup, and he looked downright untouchable.

 

He only got better in the 4th. 13 pitches later, Lester had added 3 swinging strikeouts to his count. Nelson Cruz at least put the ball in play in the 5th, but ended up just as out as the 12 men who had come before him. 14, 16, 18 men had come to the plate, and not one of them had reached first. Lester had 10 strikeouts, was two thirds of the way to a perfect game, and there wasn't a fan in Fenway that didn't know it.

 

Unfortunately, it was not to be. In the 7th, Ian Kinsler rocketed one Pedroia's way. The reigning MVP made a great grab to keep the no-no going, but it was by far the best contact any Ranger had gotten all game. So it was disappointing but not too surprising when Lester's next pitch—an inside fastball to Michael Young—was deposited deep in left-center, over Jacoby Ellsbury's head.


Lester would give up 2 walks, as well as another hit to Michael Young over the last 2.1 innings. He'd even lose the shutout on an Andruw Jones sacrifice fly. But for 19 outs, Jon Lester had looked like one of the most dominant pitchers I've ever seen.

 

This flirtation with perfection would serve as a turning point for Lester's season, much as the no-hitter had in 2008. Coming into the game with an ERA over 5, Lester spent the rest of the season on an absolute tear, shutting down offenses to the tune of a 2.34 ERA over the final 4 months of the season, and providing the Sox with a much-needed ace.

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