Less than two years after being diagnosed with cancer, Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester threw the 18th no-hitter in Boston history Monday night, blanking the Kansas City Royals 7-0 with just two walks allowed while striking out nine at Fenway Park. Lester’s gem comes over eight months after fellow starter Clay Buchholz threw a no-no against the Baltimore Orioles last fall in the rookie’s second major league start, the first time since the California Angels in 1974 and 1975 that a single team has recorded back-to-back no-hitters – in that instance, both were thrown by Nolan Ryan. Lester, who was the winning pitcher in the final game of the 2007 World Series for the Sox, threw 130 pitches, 86 for strikes, in his first-ever complete game effort and became just the fourth left-handed pitcher to throw a no-no in team history, the first since Red Sox Hall of Fame pitcher Mel Parnell threw one in July of 1956.
After going 36 years between Dave Morehead’s no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park in 1965 and former Japanese sensation Hideo Nomo’s feat in 2001 at Camden Yards against the Orioles, Sox pitchers have thrown four in the past eight seasons. Following Nomo’s performance in his first-ever start for Boston in the second game of the season, Derek Lowe threw Fenway’s first no-no in 37 years; five seasons later, Buchholz tossed the third one of the decade for Boston to begin the month of September 2007, only the third pitcher in major league history to throw in a no-hitter by his second career start.
Veteran backstop Jason Varitek also made history by catching his fourth no-hitter, the most ever in a career by a catcher, and it marked the fourth different pitcher that he has helped accomplish the feat. He even helped Lester’s cause by hitting a two-run home run to the grandstand in right field to plate the final two runs of the night for Boston. Lester’s command was near perfect in his bid, throwing first-pitch strikes to 19 batters, and the only threat by Kansas City came with two outs in the fourth, when Jose Guillen’s sinking line drive was caught by a diving Jacoby Ellsbury in center field to end the inning.