Red Sox starter Jon Lester appears an ace in stifling Cardinals

By Matt Snyder | Baseball Writer

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BOSTON -- Heading into Game 1 of the 2013 World Series, which starting pitcher did we hear more about?

Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright.

While the Red Sox were able to topple Wainwright, Lester was dominating the very solid Cardinals lineup. In 7 2/3 shutout innings, Lester only coughed up five hits and a walk while striking out eight.

Not only that, but the only two times Lester got in trouble, he came through and made big pitches.

In the top of the fourth, Lester was facing David Freese with the bases loaded and only one out. The lead was five, so a big hit all of a sudden made this a game. Instead, Lester induced a weak bouncer back to himself and a double play would end the inning.

"That one got a little away from me, but I was fortunate enough to get a pitch down to Freese there and get a ground ball," Lester said afterward. Not that the humble lefty wanted to take all the credit. "[Catcher David Ross] did a great job of making sure we got the first one at home and then made a great throw to [first baseman Mike Napoli]."

Next inning, he got a groundout from Jon Jay with runners on second and third and two outs. Including the Jay grounder, Lester retired the final nine hitters he faced with relative ease.

Game planning was a big part of the effort from Lester, specifically with getting called third strikes with his cutter.

"We went right after them," Lester said. "We pounded them in -- made them try to turn on some balls in."

"When you're able to do that, it opens up the outer half of the plate. We tried some four-seamers and they fouled them off. When you foul off a four-seamer and start the cutter just off a little bit and have it come back [toward the plate], most of the time they give up on it. And we were able to get some big strikeouts for us."

The humble Lester often makes it a point to say "we" instead of "I." It's a team game, after all. He also should be much more hailed as a great story, as he was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2006 and has come back to become a real solid major-league pitcher.

In fact, he's throwing like an ace right now. He struggled earlier in the season at times, but now he's locked in and looks the part of a front-of-rotation guy for a team that is only three victories away from winning the World Series.

Since a disaster of a start on Aug. 2, Lester is now 8-3 with a 2.04 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 97 innings. He just carved up a very capable Cardinals offense that destroyed the best left-hander in baseball in Game 6 of the NLCS, too.

Sounds like an ace to me.

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