How many players go 0-for-57 and then get a chance to make it 0-for-58?
Before Wednesday, the answer was one: Joey Hamilton, whose first major league hit came on June 3rd, 1995 in his 58th major league at bat. That 0-for-57 was a record that would stand for nearly 20 years, right up until Jon Lester went 0-for-58.
Obviously, playing in the American League for most of his career, it's taken Jon Lester 262 starts to rack up those at bats. He's reached based safely on his own merits exactly once, back in 2010 when Guillermo Mota walked him in a nine-pitch battle. In his Red Sox career, Lester went 0-for-34, needing just a couple months with the Cubs to pick up the 24 additional at bats needed to lock up the record. He's even building on it now, having picked up another hitless at bat in his last game to make it 59 without.
He didn't take this inauspicious record lying down, however. Here's the at bat that put him over the top:
Denard Span had to backtrack all the way to that ivy-covered wall, and even got himself twisted around tracking it. And the fact that the pitch even made it all the way out there was a shock in itself given that Max Scherzer was on the mound. But at the end of the day, the ball found the glove, and Lester made history.
Red Sox fans were happy to watch Lester take his futile at bats whenever the Sox headed into National League territory. Frankly it would have been fine if he'd just left his bat in the dugout as often as not and decided to take three straight down the middle rather than risk injury. Given that he'll now be seeing something like 75+ plate appearances every year with the Cubs, his offensive deficiencies might sting a little more. But it's something any team would put up with for that arm.
Now that he's got that record, it hardly matters how long the streak gets. But every other pitcher knows there's a landmine out there just waiting to be stepped on. Nobody wants to be the guy to give Jon Lester his first.