Throughout the history of baseball, there has always been a mantra that the best players show up in a big way in October.
This theory has played itself out to perfection during the 2013 playoffs, and specifically the 2013 World Series, as Boston Red Sox ace Jon Lester was absolutely unhittable during two wins in Games 2 and 5. Winning these two games has helped bump the Red Sox to a 3-2 lead in the series over the St. Louis Cardinals and put the star pitcher into pole position for the series MVP.
Lester has combined to throw 15.1 innings with 15 strikeouts, a 0.65 WHIP and a 0.59 ERA in the series. This statistical output has had a huge effect on Red Sox’ position in the series, as the three other pitchers who have started games for Boston, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Clay Buchholz, have combined to throw for a mere 14.1 innings, putting the team’s bullpen into a bind.
Where each of these guys has looked extremely shaky, Lester looked like a predator closing in on his prey. He has done this by going out and attacking players with a fastball that sits in the low to mid-90s and then showing no fear in mixing in cutters, curveballs and change-ups. The result has been that Cardinals hitters have continuously been sitting on their back foot with practically no answer for the Red Sox’ fearless ace.
Some people would point out that Lester has not played in every game of the series, and therefore could not have had the same impact that David Ortiz has had. While this argument has some validity, it fails to point out that the slugger has gotten on base six out of eight times during the Red Sox’ two losses, showing that the team can lose even when he plays great.
Also, the fact that Ortiz has actually not driven in the game-winning run in any game during the series puts a dent in any chances the slugger has to win the MVP. Meanwhile, Lester has nearly single-handedly won both of the games he has pitched. Going up against Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright each time would be a daunting prospect for any pitcher in baseball, but not for Boston’s stud.
After all, Lester did not allow a single run in the series until the fourth inning of Game 5, which put immense pressure Wainwright to keep the game a low-scoring contest and put the Cardinals hitters on edge. Both faltered under the pressure, pushing the impact Lester had off the field for Boston and into the Cardinals’ clubhouse.
This was never more evident than when a hobbling Allen Craig was sent out to start at first base, indicating that St. Louis manager Mike Matheny needed a desperation ploy to get his club going. The strategy clearly did not work and left the Cardinals with the difficult job of digging out of a 3-2 hole at Fenway Park.
When the action does flip over to Boston, there could be a couple of twists that see a new standout player mark his claim for the series MVP. Currently, however, it appears that the 2013 World Series MVP award is Lester’s to lose.