A day after, Jon Lester’s sterling performance against the A’s Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park continued to impress. Lester went eight scoreless innings, striking out a career-high 15, allowing just one hit and two walks.
The 15 strikeouts were a Red Sox record for a left-hander in a nine-inning game.
According to Elias, Lester is just the third Sox pitcher with at least 15 strikeouts and no more than one hit allowed, along with Pedro Martinez in 1999* against the Yankees and Smoky Joe Wood in 1911.
Lester is just the third left-hander with one or no hits allowed and 15 or more strikeouts in the last 100 years, along with Randy Johnson, who did it twice, in 1992 and 1997, and Warren Spahn in 1960.
Lester now has eight career starts allowing one or no hits, tying Pedro Martinez for the most among Sox pitchers in the last 100 years and the most in the American League since 2006.
“I don’t recall seeing him that good before,” said A’s manager Bob Melvin. “I mean, he’s been plenty good, but the cutter to both sides of the plate really makes it a big plate to have to cover. He pitches in so well to right-handers and now he’s throwing that back-door cutter that looks like it’s three feet outside.
“So you’ve got to tip your hat sometimes. Yesterday was a day when he had our number.”
“That’s a rare performance,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “The thing that still stands out is that combination of power and command. When you see the location and the quality of the location of pitches inside the strike zone, that’s what’s pretty remarkable. To maintain that kind of power through a full eight innings, nearly 120 pitches [actually 119]. He got into a very good rhythm early and carried it all the way through.
“What puts some other things in context is that Pedro did this 10 times in his career here. It makes you take a step back and realize how dominant of a pitcher he was, as well.”
Farrell was the Sox pitching coach from 2007-2010 before coming back last season as the manager. He’s watched Lester’s progression over the years.
“He’s much more consistent to the arm side of the strike zone now than he was at the time,” Farrell said. “He was a guy that pitched almost to half of the plate. Because he has that capability to pitch to both sides of the plate now, it spreads it wider to the eye of the hitter and seemingly they have to protect a greater area. And when you combine that with mid- to low-90s stuff, you’re seeing a pitcher that’s going to probably keep a game in command and potentially dominate and that’s what took place yesterday.
*The one hit Martinez allowed to the Yankees in that game in 1999 was a home run to Chili Davis, who is at Fenway weekend for the as the A’s hitting coach, and is the former PawSox hitting coach. Martinez had 17 strikeouts in that game on Sept. 10.