Jon Lester threw a no-hitter against the Kansas City Royals in 2008. But he was admittedly far more of a thrower than a pitcher back then.
“The best way to put it is 'effectively wild,' ” the Red Sox lefthander said. “Trying to go down and away, we’d go up and in and they’d hit a fly ball somewhere. Not really understanding what was going on. Just throwing the ball.”
What transpired at Fenway Park on Friday night was something else entirely even if it wasn’t quite as historic.
Lester was a pitch away from perfection against the Toronto Blue Jays in a 5-0 victory. His only blemish was a double in the sixth inning by Maicer Izturis.
The Jays sent 28 batters to the plate and 27 went back to the dugout. Lester threw six of his 118 pitches out of the stretch. He was a craftsman far removed from that 24-year-old who no-hit Kansas City.
Lester’s maturity was evident after the game, too. He laughed when asked whether he was disappointed about losing the perfect game and no-hitter.
“All that’s stuff, the stars got to be perfectly aligned for you,” Lester said. “It’s got to happen. … You can’t pitch to that. You’ve got to pitch your game.”
His game was to induce contact and use the aggressiveness of the underachieving Blue Jays against them. Lester struck out only five but got 12 outs on ground balls.
Toronto hitters saw three pitches or fewer in 12 plate appearances. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said it was a little nerve-racking, knowing the Jays were willing to swing at almost anything he called.
Lester (5-0) has three shutouts in his career and 10 complete games. His was the first one-hit shutout for the Sox since Josh Beckett beat the Rays on June 15, 2011.
See the Globe tomorrow for more on Lester.