In the final game of the World Series, Lester smothered the Rockies for five innings while the Sox scored twice off Aaron Cook. When Lester walked Garrett Atkins on a 3-2 pitch with two outs and nobody aboard in the sixth, Francona walked out of the third-base dugout to pull his 23-year-old starter. Manny Delcarmen was ready in the bullpen. The manager found himself resisting the urge to hug Lester, right there on the mound with the whole world watching.
“Junior, that’s plenty,” Francona said, taking the ball from the reluctant lefty. “You did great.”
Typically, Lester said nothing. He put his head down and shuffled off toward the dugout.
“It was like he had climbed Mount Everest,” said Francona. “I know the game wasn’t over, but you have to appreciate a moment like that. I knew his mom and dad were there. It was emotional. Having him be a part of that game meant as much to me as anything else.”