|First inning: Young Greatness||10.06.08 at 5:53 pm ET|
Jon Lester is not looking to mess around tonight. First pitch: 96 mph ball. Second pitch: 96 mph heater on the hands of Chone Figgins, resulting in a weak grounder to second. Lester’s increase in strength over the course of the season has been remarkable, a testament to both his exceptional work ethic, to the growing distance from the time when his recovering body could not allow him to take on weight, and to the normal physical maturation of a 24-year-old. That part almost gets lost sometimes, I think, in the Lester story: forgetting everything else about his remarkable story, he’s accomplished quite a bit at a very young age. To wit: Lester this year became just the sixth southpaw this decade to win 16 or more games before turning 24.
Lester made second batter Garret Anderson look bad on swing-and-miss curveballs, getting his first punchout of the night, then made quick work of three-hole hitter Mark Teixeira, blistering a few high-90s fastballs that resulted in an easy groundout to second. It took Lester all of nine pitches to get out of the first, obviously a promising sign for the Sox given the substantial workload assumed last night by their pitchers.
John Lackey, too, looked sharp in the first, needing just 10 pitches to get through the Sox in a 1-2-3 first. Lackey was just 24 when he won a World Series clincher for the Angels in Game 7 of the 2002 Fall Classic. Between these two teams, you have Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, who won World Series clinchers as 23-year-olds, and Lackey, who did the deed at 24.
Beckett, however, has already produced an impressive sequel. Tonight, Lester and Lackey are wrestling for the right to do the same.
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