We've got just a couple more awards left to vote on, and this is the last one that actually involves the 2014 Red Sox, for better or worse.
Actually, let's be honest, probably for better.
Still, for all that the 2014 Red Sox are not filled with great memories, we've at least got a pretty good category to send them off with. One of those ones that can be appreciated even when everything
is going has gone to hell in a handbasket! here are your nominees for the best pitching performance of 2014.
Jon Lester strikes out 15 Athletics
Jon Lester certainly got out to a decent start with the Red Sox in 2014. Through six games, he held a 3.10 ERA and a pretty remarkable 43:8 K:BB in 40 innings of work.
But if you're looking for the game where Lester's season was transformed from another solid year into the career best campaign that it was, look no further than these eight innings in Oakland. We've seen him throw a no-hitter, we've seen him dominate the competition in the World Series, but in a vacuum, even with a third-inning single keeping him from making a run at (repeating) history, this is the best we have ever seen from Jon Lester:
You think the Athletics had this game in mind when they traded for him?
Clay Buchholz shuts out the Astros
Caveats: Clay Buchholz was bad this year. So were the Astros, though their offense was pretty middle-of-the-road.
But that doesn't change the fact that on July 13th, in the midst of a lost season, sandwhiched between a pair of four-run outings, Clay Buchholz took to the mound and simply annihilated the competition. No, he didn't match Lester's 15 strikeouts, but he racked up 12 of his own, didn't allow a single walk, and gave up three hits each arguably weaker than Lester's one.
Watching Buchholz struggle game-in and game-out this season, it was hard to remember that, for the first few months of 2013, he was the odds-on favorite to win the Cy Young Award. But games like this provide some hope that that pitcher still exists, and if there are lessons to be learned from Buchholz' past injuries, it's that we might well have him back in 2015.
John Lackey throws nine scoreless innings against the Twins
It all may have ended with some slightly bitter undertones between the Red Sox and John Lackey, but before the trade deadline, 2014 was just the latest chapter in John Lackey's redemption story, to the point where fans were already talking about extending him, even with that 2015 league minimum option in the mix.
Lackey hit his highest high on June 18th against the Twins, firing off nine innings of three-hit baseball, allowing not a single run in the process.
You'll note, though, that I've said nothing about shutting them out. Well, there's a reason for that. Even as Lackey was at his level best, the Red Sox were at their level worst, hearkening back to their 2013 roots of just refusing to ever score enough runs to get Lackey the win. Sure enough, when Lackey recorded that last out, we headed to the tenth.
The Twins would actually end up going ahead before David Ortiz and Mike Napoli went back-to-back in the tenth to steal the win. for, hilariously, Koji Uehara, who had given up more hard contact in one inning than Lackey had in nine.
It probably wasn't that exact moment that Lackey decided to get out of Boston, but maybe, just maybe he decided they were all jerks at that very moment. Maybe.
Y'know what, I was gonna shoehorn a fourth game in here. Rubby De La Rosa's strong debut that gave some hope their might be an answer for the rotation, or a minor-league no-hitter, or even Clay Buchholz' clearly-inferior second shutout. But to hell with that. These are the three outings that deserve your consideration. They stand alone above the rest.