Missouri is known as the ‘Show Me’ state, and Boston’s Jon Lester did just that, shooting down an accusation he had cheated in his Game One victory over the St. Louis Cardinals with another impressive World Series performance on Monday.
Under close scrutiny after a Cardinals’ minor leaguer posted a picture and accusation on Twitter the Red Sox lefthander had used an illegal substance to improve the movement of his pitches, Lester pitched the Red Sox to a 3-1 win that gave Boston a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Lester, who denied he had cheated, silenced the Busch Stadium crowd by putting the Red Sox within one win of the title with the series shifting to Boston on Wednesday.
“I was just really try not to screw it up for the rest of the guys,” he said in deflecting credit for his 7-2/3 innings of one-run pitching with just four hits allowed.
“Just try to keep my team in the ballgame.
“We know who we are going up against. They’re going to pitch us tough and their bullpen is tough, as well.
“Just really try to keep them in the ballgame as best you can, and hopefully these guys can score some runs for me.
“You don’t want to let those guys down. And we’re all trying to pull on the same rope and get to one common goal. And that’s what makes this team pretty special.”
The only run for the Cardinals came on a fourth-inning home run by Matt Holliday that tied the game 1-1 before a Red Sox rally produced two runs in the seventh.
‘Lester was fantastic’
Boston manager John Farrell said it was a big game by Lester, given the situation in the series and the fact he was against Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright.
“We talked before the game, we felt this was going to be a classic pitcher’s duel,” Farrell said.
“It was shaping up that way. Fortunately we were able to break through in the seventh inning. Jon Lester was fantastic.”
Lester looked cool and calm on the mound, but he said it was a battle to focus.
The guy (Jon Lester) is our backbone. He's our horse when he's out there. We expect a lot out of him and he's pitching like the ace he is.
“It doesn’t matter how many games at this stage you play, your nerves are going, your heart rate is going,” he said.
“It’s just a matter of once you kind of settle in, realising, it’s baseball. Fastball down and away. Game Five of the World Series is just as effective as on February 1st.”
It was the first game of the series without an error and the brisk pitchers duel lasted less than three hours.
The Red Sox, however, got the hits they needed with light-hitting catcher David Ross and red-hot David Ortiz providing some critical support for Lester though both preferred to talk about their pitcher.
“I don’t know what else there is to say about Jon Lester,” said Ross, who drove home the go-ahead run in the seventh with a ground-rule double down the leftfield line.
“The guy is our backbone. He’s our horse when he’s out there. We expect a lot out of him and he’s pitching like the ace he is.”
Veteran Ortiz, who went 3-for-4 and drove in Boston’s first run, raised his series batting average to an amazing .733.
Ortiz, the only Red Sox player remaining from the 2004 World Series champions who swept the Cardinals, recalled how impressed he was when second-year player Lester pitched the clincher for Boston against the Colorado Rockies in the 2007 Fall Classic.
“He came up to the big leagues at a time where we were going to the playoffs and winning World Series,” said Ortiz.
“As a young player he’s always looking around and trying to improve himself and get better.
“He told me straight up that he was going to be the future of the organisation, the ace, and there he is, doing what he does at his best.”