Red Sox Ace Jon Lester’s Brilliant Playoff Performance Helped Pave Way to World Series Championship

Jon LesterEvery pitching rotation needs an ace who can be trusted to perform in high-pressure situations on the path to the World Series, and for the Boston Red Sox, Jon Lester excels in this important role.

David Ortiz won the 2013 World Series MVP for his incredible dominance from the plate, which included a .688 batting average and .760 on-base percentage, both of which were the second-highest in the 109-year history of the World Series. But a strong case for MVP could also have been made for Lester, because without his consistently strong performances on the mound, there is no Duckboat parade scheduled for Saturday.

In five postseason starts, Lester was 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA, 29 strikeouts and only eight walks. In his only defeat, he allowed just one run in a 1-0 loss to open the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers.

Even though his postseason statistics were fantastic, Lester’s true value was his ability to deliver a much-needed victory when the Red Sox absolutely had to have it. In Game 5 of the ALCS with the Red Sox tied with the Tigers at two games apiece, Lester took the mound and pitched five strong innings, allowing just two runs and striking out three. Boston defeated Detroit 4-3 to take a 3-2 series lead back to Fenway Park, where they clinched their 13th pennant in Game 6. If Lester had lost Game 5 of the ALCS, the Red Sox would have needed to beat two dominant aces in likely Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander in the final two games of the series, which would have been a difficult challenge.

Lester’s next start was one of the finest of his career. In Game 1 of the World Series against a Cardinals lineup that ranked third runs scored, fourth in batting average and third in OBP during the regular season, the 29-year-old left-hander threw 7 and 2/3 scoreless innings with 10 strikeout and a walk.

His final start in Game 5 with the series tied 2-2 proved why Lester is the top-of-the-rotation pitcher that general managers covet so much. In the biggest game of his career on the road at Busch Stadium, Lester pitched 7 and 2/3 innings, allowing one run with seven strikeouts and no walks to put the Sox on the brink of a championship. His only mistake was a home run to one of baseball’s best hitters in Matt Holliday, which ended an impressive shutout streak.

For those keeping score, Lester’s World Series totals were 15 and 1/3 innings, two runs, 15 strikeouts and one walk. Red Sox manager John Farrell couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Not only did Lester dominate the Cardinals twice in the World Series, he out-dueled their best and most experienced postseason starter in Adam Wainwright. The Cardinals’ ace is one of the best playoff pitchers of this era, but he was unable to match Lester’s dominance, which was one of the key developments in the series because it put a tremendous amount of pressure on St. Louis’ younger, less experienced starters such as Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn to be error-free against a powerful Red Sox lineup.

Make no mistake about it, the Red Sox would not be celebrating their third World Series of the 21st century without Lester’s clutch performances from the mound. He took the ball when his team had little room for error and proved why he’s the No. 1 ace on the Sox’ staff. His October brilliance will live on in Red Sox lore.

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