Lester Looks Back At Game 7 in 2008 As He Prepares to Move Forward
|10.06.09 at 3:43 pm ET|
ANAHEIM, Calif – It has now been almost a year, and Jon Lester can still recall the details with little effort. But while it would be easy to assume that the recollections of Game 7 of the American League Championship Series have been weighty, nothing could be further from the case.
Lester and the Red Sox were outpitched by Matt Garza and the Rays in a 3-1 defeat that propelled Tampa Bay to the World Series and that yanked the carpet from under Boston’s season. The fact that the young left-hander’s breakout season concluded with a loss was distressing. Still, as he prepares to take the ball for Game 1 of the American League Division Series, Lester (15-8, 3.41 ERA in 2009) insists that he hasn’t spent a year stewing and waiting to avenge the defeat.
“It was cool. It was fun,” Lester recalled of the Game 7 responsibility. “Obviously, there was importance to it, but out on the mound I didn’t feel like there was. I was able to slow things down. The game didn’t speed up on me. I executed pitches.
“Game 7 last year, I still feel like I threw the ball better than any start during the regular season or any start during the postseason and I got beat. That happens. … I felt like there was one pitch that, if I could have back, I would,” he added, alluding to the homer he gave up to Willy Aybar on a fastball that remained up and over the plate. “Out of the [107 pitches] I threw, that’s a pretty good ratio.”
Lester learned a great deal from his first run as a rotation anchor in the postseason. He started Games 1 and 4 of the ALDS against the Angels, firing 14 innings without allowing an earned run. He then endured a poor outing against the Rays in a Game 3 loss (5.2 innings, 5 runs) in the ALCS, before his tough-luck defeat in the winner-take-all contest in Game 7. He finished the postseason with a 1-2 record but a 2.36 ERA.
Through the run, Lester followed a fairly simple formula. He became adept in bringing the same focus and execution to each pitch that he did in the regular season.
In three of his four starts, he did that, including the Game 7 loss. In that game, Lester recalls easily the Rays scoring the go-ahead run on the strength of a double, an infield single by catcher Dioner Navarro and then a Rocco Baldelli grounder that just as easily could have been a double-play ball as a run-scoring single.
“The pitch I threw to Rocco that he hit into the hole, I wanted to throw that pitch. I thought it was the pitch to get him out. He hit it into the hole. We don’t get to that situation if Navarro hits the ball five feet harder,” Lester shrugged. “That’s the thing about baseball. Things happen that you can’t explain. I executed a pitch but didn’t get him out. What other sport does that happen?
“Some things are meant to happen. They were meant to get to the World Series. Some years, it’s just a battle to the end to figure out who’s going.”
That said, Lester takes no joy in having come up short of the goal he helped the Sox achieve when having been the pitcher of record in the clinching game of the 2007 World Series. He suggests that he entered spring training with the same goal in sight on an annual basis, and that anything short of a championship will leave him “[ticked] off.”
All the same, as he prepares to begin his next postseason chapter, Lester views last year’s Game 7 loss not simply as a failure but also as a learning opportunity. He relished shouldering the load for his club on October 19, and welcomes the chance to do so again as the curtain is lifted on this year’s postseason.
Soon, Lester will have that opportunity once again against the Angels. For the second straight year, he is the pitcher who will be entrusted with launching the Sox’ postseason ambitions. It is a responsibility that will not overwhelm him.
“That’s what makes this game so fun. No matter how good you are, or how good you think you are, you’re always humbled at some point. It doesn’t take a good day or bad day to realize it,” said Lester. “It all comes down to the same stuff you do during the season. It just means something now.
“You lose, you go home. You can ask anybody the question. They’ll say postseason is fun, you try to stay relaxed. But there’s always that added emphasis on every pitch, every swing, every out. I think the people that do that are the ones who are able to set aside that need or desire to do well.”
- Help Wanted: Staff Editor, Scouts
- Michael Almanzar selected in Rule 5 draft
- Preliminary 'New Stars for Young Stars' lineup announced
- Fall/Winter League Roundup: Big weeks for Acosta and Welch
- Gary DiSarcina named Baseball America Minor League Manager of the Year
- Red Sox non-tender Ryan Kalish, Andrew Bailey
- Fall/Winter League Roundup: Jesus Loya solid at the plate in Mexico
- Help Wanted: Staff Editor, Scouts
- SoxProspects.com Podcast #48: The Slow Season
- Fall/Winter League Roundup: Attention shifts to Caribbean, Jerez shining in Venezuela