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Miguel Cabrera is, as Jon Lester noted last night, the best hitter on the planet.
So, when Cabrera came up to the plate with three Detroit Tigers on base and the visitors holding a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning at Fenway, Lester had an urgent need as he rummaged through his toolkit. And as he has lately begun to do more reliably and with more regularity, Lester found what he was looking for.
It’s his own best stuff.
And as it turns out, when Lester is able to grab his kryptonite, he can make the best hitter on the planet look a little more mortal, at least for one day.
The groundout by Cabrera, coming on a 2-1 cut fastball up and in that turned into a weak groundball to shortstop Stephen Drew, who tossed to second baseman Dustin Pedroia for the force, was a touchstone moment this season for the Red Sox. The sigh of relief was as big as the ovation Lester received once Pedroia stepped on the second base bag with the ball safely in his glove, the balance of power shifting towards the Sox.
Herald: Lester gives team's hopes big boost
It wasn't entirely Lester's fault that he was even in the situation. If Will Middlebrooks handled that grounded the right way, he would've been out of the inning. Instead, an error and two base hits later, Lester is up against the best hitter in the planet and he doesn't have wiggle room. Being the pessimistic folk that Sox fans are, this is where we would say that Lester will crumble & then complain that he isn't an ace.
And we would've been fools for saying it. Lester was an ace last night and his stuff was electric. You could hear Dennis Eckersley drooling over Lester's cutter on NESN last night. Hell we are were drooling over it. It hasn't looked that good in years.
While last night was a statement game, Lester's re-emergence as an ace has actually been happening since the All-Star Break. He's 5-2 with a 2.41 ERA in his last nine starts. With him & John Lackey firing on all cylinders, the Sox have two guys to ride through September and hopefully further. They may not be better than Scherzer & Verlander but they have proven to take their game up a notch when needed. And that should have everyone in the American League a little uneasy.
Rest of the Links: Globe: Lester, Sox beat Tigers | An October feel at Fenway | Ellsbury, Salty out with injuries | Herald: Middlebrooks hand rare loss to Scherzer | | Sox well aware of value in winning division | Ellsbury, Salty given rest in win | Farrell's bullpen experiment produces results | CSNNE: He's on a roll | Middlebrooks' big hit makes up for error | Lester outduels Scherzer | WEEI: Timing is everything | Lester outduels Scherzer