Jon DeAndre Hopkins Texans Jersey Lester has pitched every type of Game 1 in his career except one — the opener of a World Series.
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The lefty — the man the Red Sox consider their ace — will draw that honor on Wednesday night (7:30 ET air time on FOX/8:07 first pitch) in Game 1 against Adam Wainwrightand the Cardinals at Fenway Park.
Lester had a dominant second half and it has carried into the postseason. In three starts this October, Lester is 2-1 with a 2.29 ERA. His only loss was a 1-0 defeat to the Tigers’ Anibal Sanchez in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.
Red Sox manager John Farrell was Lester’s pitching coach the last time Boston made the World Series, in 2007.
In the clinching Game 4 of the ’07 Fall Classic at Colorado, Lester earned the win. But he’s evolved into an upper-echelon pitcher in the ensuing six years.
“He knows himself better,” Farrell said. “He knows what his checkpoints are. He knows where his strengths lie. And I think more importantly, he can trust himself. What I mean by that is that in his first couple of years in his big league career, he was so locked in on trying to figure out what the opposition was doing and going in to attack that.
“In other words, what was their game plan against him? Which you didn’t know. You had no way of knowing until you set the approach that you were going to execute against them first. So he’s trusting in his abilities and establishing himself on the mound initially and then responding to how they adjust to him. He’s very much a concrete thinker and I think he’s become much more at ease with himself to know, ‘Not everything is in my control, and yet I trust my abilities to perform well.'”
The Red Sox will set the rest of their rotation Tuesday. Either John Lackey or Clay Buchholz is most likely to start Game 2, with the other one getting the nod in Game 3 at St. Louis. Jake Peavy is all but certain to start Game 4.
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“I pitched against the Cardinals last year — a lot of the same guys were in the lineup,” said Peavy. “If you go back and watch that tape and watch what they do, when you watch them live and get a feel for what’s going on and their personality, the Cardinals are a great bunch.”
It was an obstacle the Red Sox overcame in 2004 and ’07, but one they still don’t look forward to.
When the World Series shifts to St. Louis for Games 3, 4 and 5 (if necessary), Boston loses the designated hitter.
That means David Ortiz will have to dust off his glove and play first base, which he did six times during the regular season. And it also means that Mike Napoli — who hit two big home runs in the American League Championship Series — will be on the bench in the games that Ortiz starts at first.
And assuming Napoli gets one start in St. Louis, Ortiz will be out of the lineup for that game.
Conversely, the Cardinals get an extra hitter in their lineup for the games at Fenway.
“Well with David going to first base, which he will when we get over to St. Louis, how many days he’ll play in those three games there remains to be seen,” said DeAndre Hopkins Jersey Red Sox manager John Farrell. “It is different for us. Personally, when we go into National League ballparks, I think we’re in a greater disadvantage than the reverse of that when National League teams come in here.”
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Daniel Nava hit .303 with a .385 on-base percentage during the regular season. He was the only Red Sox player to get a hit in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series. Yet he was on the bench for four of the next five games.
It looks like that trend will continue in Game 1 of the World Series against the Cardinals on Wednesday.
“We haven’t made out Wednesday’s lineup yet, but can’t go away from maybe a little bit of momentum that a certain lineup has provided for us,” hinted manager John Farrell.
The “momentum lineup” is one that has included Jonny Gomes in left field, even against right-handers (Gomes spent most of the season on the other side of the platoon), and Xander Bogaerts at third base ahead of Will Middlebrooks.
Gomes has five hits and two walks in 25 postseason at-bats while Nava has three hits and three walks in just 11 at-bats, though Farrell has cited the “intangibles” that Gomes has been bringing to the lineup. Gomes is second on the team in runs (six) to leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury (10).
Nava had no hard feelings when asked about his role.
“Skip came up to me and said, ‘Hey, man, just wanted to let you know I’ve still got you, yada yada,’ and I said, ‘If you want to put [Gomes] in there, that’s great. If you want to put me in there, that’s great.’ We just want to win the World Series,” Nava said. “We’ve gotten to this point. Whatever combination he wants to put out there that gets us four more wins, I don’t think any of us will complain.
“You don’t play 162 games to all of a sudden get selfish in the playoffs. You play 162 games to be selfless in the playoffs so we can go out there and win. I know everyone says it, but if we were looking at it any other way, we’d have problems, we wouldn’t be in this spot. We’d be bickering and fighting. As you’ve seen, that’s the last thing that goes on in this clubhouse.”
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Nava compared the situation to choosing flavors of ice cream.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” he said. “If anything, it’s a problem that’s good to have. It’s like when you’re looking at ice cream — what’s your favorite ice cream? I’ve got two flavors. Is it bad I love both these flavors this much? Now, we are not ice cream, but the same thing — neither of them are bad. Jonny, if they put me in, either way, we’ve got a good chance to help the team win.”
Gomes, who was 3-for-16 with seven strikeouts in the ALCS, said he and Nava still talk often and their relationship hasn’t been tarnished.
“It’s not really about us, him and I,” Gomes said. “It’s not about playing time between he and I … You don’t compete with someone wearing the same uniform as you. If I was to waste energy hoping my platoon mate would fail so I would get in, that’s just negative energy and it doesn’t work. If he shines, we win. If I’m fortunate to shine, we win.
“It’s our left field. It’s not what name or what guy is out there. It’s our left field.”
A day after the Red Sox eliminated the Tigers in the American League Championship Series, Red Sox manager John Farrell thought enough of Jim Leyland to send him a heart-felt text.
“I had sent him a text [Sunday] morning just to congratulate him and the organization on not only a great team, but a great year,” said Farrell. “And I expressed the respect that we have for him and certainly for all the success he’s had in his career.”
By Monday, Leyland announced he was stepping down as Tigers manager.
“And then to see the announcement today, to listen to him and know that early September this was very clear in his mind, that’s surprising,” Farrell said. “My gosh, when you take a step back and you see someone who’s managed for what, 22 years, it’s a hell of a career and I’m sure one he’s extremely proud of.”