May 19, 2008 – the day that Jon Lester’s career changed forever. It was on that day that Jon Lester threw the 18th no-hitter in Red Sox history, the first Sox pitcher since Clay Buchholz the year before, and the first Sox lefty since Mel Parnell in 1956 to throw a no-hitter. Lester, a hot prospect in his first full season with the team, was already 2-2 with a 3.95 ERA through 10 starts. He had already made waves during the 2007 World Series when he pitched game 4, earning the victory and winning the series over the Colorado Rockies, becoming the third pitcher to win a World Series clinching game in their first career postseason start.
Lester had made his debut in June 2006 but saw his season shortened when he was diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma in September. In his first summer in Boston, he went 7-2 with a 4.76 ERA through 15 starts. He was declared cancer free in December and rejoined the Red Sox in June 2007. He finished the season 4-0 with a 4.57 ERA through 11 starts.
On May 19, 2008, Jon Lester had a date with destiny. On a cool night at Fenway Park, the Red Sox were preparing to take the field against the Kansas City Royals. The Sox were 27-19 and had just come off of a three- game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers. They were just one game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East.
I have included a video recap of the game in the above embedded video. Like any no-hitter, the game had close calls. It took some clutch fielding by first baseman Kevin Youkilis, a diving catch from center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, and a key catches in left by Manny Ramirez in order to pull this off. As for Lester himself, he walked two and struck out nine. The Sox ultimately won the game 7-0.
A few interesting notes: The Red Sox saw four no-hitters in the 2000s, Hideo Nomo in 2001, Derek Lowe in 2002, Clay Buchholz in 2007, and Jon Lester in 2008. All four were caught by Jason Varitek. Hideo Nomo’s no hitter on April 4, 2001 broke a dry spell that dated back to Dave Morehead’s no-hitter on September 16, 1965. Since Lester’s no-hitter, no other Sox pitcher has accomplished the feat.
The Sox would finish the season with a 95-67 record, finishing 2nd behind the Rays by just two games. They would earn a berth in the playoffs by virtue of winning the Wild Card. In the playoffs, they would dispatch the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the Division Series before falling to the Rays in seven games in the American League Championship Series.
As for Lester, he finished 2008 with a 16-6 record and a 3.21 ERA. He would pitch in Boston, including as a key player in the 2013 World Series championship, until 2014 when he was traded to the Oakland Athletics after acrimonious negotiations over a potential contract extension. In 2015, Lester would join the Cubs and later play a key role in helping them break a 100+ year World Series drought.
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