05/20/08 12:25 AM ET
Lester's precision wows Royals most
Red Sox lefty throws 86 of 130 pitches for strikes in no-hitter
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
Honest. DeJesus whacked a fly ball to left field and thought that it would be a double off the Green Monster.
But a stiff wind, clocked at 23 mph, was blowing in.
Whaddya know. Left fielder Manny Ramirez settled under the ball and made a routine catch.
"I thought Manny was playing that thing when he fakes it and plays the ball off the wall," DeJesus said. "Then he's sitting there and catches it, and I'm, 'All right, what's going on?'"
What was going on was that this was merely the first out of Lester's no-hitter in a 7-0 Red Sox victory at Fenway Park. Lester needed 130 pitches to do it, but 86 of them were strikes. Lester fanned nine batters and walked two.
Lester was saved by center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury's diving catch of Jose Guillen's liner in shallow center field in the fourth inning.
But Royals manager Trey Hillman pointed to a screamer in the third inning by Esteban German that was picked off by first baseman Kevin Youkilis as his club's best chance at breaking up history.
"The hardest-hit ball we had was Esteban's line drive," Hillman said.
In addition to nine strikeouts, the Royals had 11 ground-ball outs and seven in the air. Just 29 batters made it to the plate.
Alberto Callaspo spanked a hard-hit grounder foul down the third-base line on a 1-2 pitch just before striking out to end the game.
Callaspo was batting in the spot vacated by Mark Grudzielanek, who left the game after seven innings despite being the American League's top hitter going in. Grudzielank was pulled after striking out twice and tapping back to the mound.
"I'm OK -- it's just 7-0, and [Hillman] was giving me a little rest," Grudzielanek said.
In Hillman's view, Lester didn't look all that invincible in the first two innings. But things quickly changed.
"From the third through the ninth, he was in command of all of his pitches," Hillman said. "They had a good game plan. They made us chase, and we chased too much. They got us behind in the count, and when a guy's got that much going, it makes it difficult."
Lester noted that he concentrated on throwing first-pitch strikes.
"Once you get ahead, you can manipulate the count and do things you want to do," Lester said. "It's just easier when you're ahead of guys all the time."
DeJesus, the only batter to face Lester four times, certainly noticed.
"He was just getting ahead of everybody," DeJesus said, "and he had his cutter working and his two-seamer working and he just had both sides of the plate going. He didn't really need the guys behind him. He was just pretty dominant today."
Even though Grudzielanek has been in the Major Leagues since 1995, this was his first exposure to a no-hitter.
"I don't think I've ever been involved in one of them," Grudzielanek said. "It's kind of freaky, especially in a park like this. You don't think it could happen too much. But it's a weird day. It was cloudy out there -- dark and windy -- and it was his day today. You've got to hand it to him."
This was just the second no-hitter thrown against the Royals. The first came in 1973 by Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, then with the California Angels.
The Royals have thrown four no-hitters -- two by Steve Busby in 1973 and '74, and one each by Jim Colborn in '77 and Bret Saberhagen in '91.
It doesn't happen often, but now Lester goes into the Royals' no-hit history.
"You've got to have everything going for you," said Billy Butler, who played first base for the Royals on Monday. "You've got to be perfect, and that's what he was."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.