Tidbits in the wake of Jon Lester's no-hitter . . .
After going 35 1/2 years between no-hitters -- from Dave Morehead against the Indians at Fenway Park on Sept. 16, 1965, to Hideo Nomo against the Orioles in Baltimore on April 4, 2001 -- the Red Sox have now thrown four in the last eight seasons:
-- Nomo vs. the Orioles
-- Derek Lowe vs. the Devil Rays (and, yes, they were still devilish back then) at Fenway Park in a 10-0 win on April 27, 2002
-- Clay Buchholz vs. the Orioles at Fenway in a 10-0 win on Sept. 1, 2007
-- Jon Lester vs. the Royals at Fenway in a 7-0 win on May 19, 2008
Even more history
Jason Varitek was behind the plate for all four no-hitters and has tied Ray Schalk of the White Sox for most no-hitters caught by a catcher. Schalk -- one of the clean members of the Black Sox team that threw the 1919 World Series -- caught two in 1914 and one each in 1917 and 1922.
They're number one
The Red Sox now have 19 no-hitters in their history, the most of any American League franchise.
Both Buchholz and Lester closed out their no-hitters with strikeouts. Buchholz' was called, Lester's was swinging.
Journal photo / Bob Breidenbach
Jon Lester deals in the first inning of his historic start tonight.
He did it!
Jon Lester has fired a no-hitter as the Red Sox have beaten Kansas City, 7-0, tonight at Fenway.
With the crowd of 37,746 roaring, Lester walked Esteban German to lead off the ninth. He retired Tony Pena on a high bouncer to third, with German moving to second. He went to 2-2 before getting Tony Pena on a grounder to first that Kevin Youkilis handled alone.
Lester got ahead of Alberto Callaspo with two quick strikes. He threw one ball, got a foul ball and then, on his 130th pitch of the night, fired a fastball. Callaspo swung and missed.
As so often happens with a no-hitter, the game included an outstanding defensive play to keep it going. This one was provided by Jacoby Ellsbury, who raced in and toward right, dove and caught a fly ball by Jose Guillen in the fourth.
Lester struck out nine, a season high.
It is the 18th no-hitter in Red Sox history. Lester is the first lefty to get a no-hitter since Mel Parnell on July 14, 1956.
Jon Lester has turned a cold night in May into the most exciting game of the Red Sox season thus far.
The lefty has a no-hitter through eight innings as the Red Sox lead Kansas City, 7 -0. Lester has allowed only one base runner, a walk to Billy Butler in the second. He has struck out a season high eight.
-- Manager Terry Francona saw his son, Nick, graduate from the University of Pennsylvania this morning at Franklin Field. He made it back to Fenway Park around 3:30.
-- Clay Buchholz, on the disabled list because of a torn fingernail on the middle finger of his right hand, has been limited in what he has been able to do. The Sox want to make sure the nail heals before they will allow him to get serious about throwing.
-- Justin Masterson, scheduled to be called up from Portland to start tomorrow night's game against Kansas City, likely will watch tonight's game in his hotel room. Regulations prohibit him from being at the field until the day he is activated.
Kevin Youkilis already has bashed nine homers this season, including seven in his last 13 games.
Youkilis, known for his patience at the plate and for seeing plenty of pitches per at-bat, has been more aggressive this season. It's not a case of Youkilis swinging for the fences, however, said manager Terry Francona.
"He has been consistent. He hasn't sold out his swing to hit home runs," said Francona. "When they make some mistakes he has hit home runs. But he's still getting hits to right field and right-center, trying to hit the ball the other way.
"He has come a long way, grown up a lot as a hitter and a player," added Francona. "He's a professional hitter. The first spring he didn't have many at-bats, but he pulled only one ball hard. Now if he sees a pitch he likes he has been aggressive. He's getting his pitch and whacking it."
Youkilis enters tonight's game second in the league in batting, at .329.
Hideki Okajima, who hasn't thrown since last Wednesday, when he surrendered a game-losing grand slam to the Orioles' Jay Payton, was given permission to play catch this afternoon.
Okajima was shut down after that outing in Baltimore, with the team saying the left-hander has been suffering from soreness in his left wrist.
He started off gingerly tossing from about 20 feet, but felt well enough to play catch from 60 or so feet, and he had some zip on his tosses. Manager Terry Francona said a bit earlier that if he does feel well after throwing, the Sox' staff would have to decide if, having not thrown in a game for four days, Okajima would be able to help them tonight in his normal late-inning set-up role.
The story contains quotes from Mike Lowell, Dustin Pedroia, J.D. Drew, Mike Timlin, Kevin Youkilis, Alex Cora, Curt Schilling, David Ortiz and Sean Casey. All these guys praise Ramirez's seriousness of purpose. The story also includes a poll that seems pretty out of place: What do you think of Manny Ramirez? The choices: Knucklehead, too laid back, misunderstood, still not sure. I'd take "all-time great player," but it's not an option.
Player to Watch: Royals believe young closer is one to count on for years to come
MIAMI (AP) - The curve from Joakim Soria lacked its usual bite and stayed a little higher than he wanted, which is why it came to rest beyond the center-field wall.
Jeremy Hermida's two-run homer cut the Kansas City Royals' lead over Florida to 7-6. The runs were the first allowed by Soria this season.
"It was coming someday," the young closer said later Friday night. "Someday someone was going to hit me. It's OK. It's no big deal."
If Soria didn't sound flustered, he didn't pitch that way, either. He struck out the next two batters, both on curves, for his 11th save in as many chances.
The performance showed why the Royals want Soria to remain with them for years to come.
"He's very calm," Royals pitching coach Bob McClure said. "He doesn't panic. He's just an old-time baseball player playing a game. You feel confident that when he comes in, the game is going to be over."
Soria's hiccup sent his ERA skyrocketing to 1.04. The Royals weren't exactly alarmed - on Saturday they gave him an $8.75 million, three-year contract extension, a deal that includes three club options that could raise the value to at least $30.75 million.
Soria has come a long way from the winter league in his native Mexico, where he pitched after the 2006 season. At that point he had yet to climb above Class A.
"I don't want to think about that," Soria said with a smile. "That was a long time ago."
Actually, his emergence as one of the game's top relievers happened quickly, and before he turned 24 Sunday.
Acquired when the San Diego Padres left him unprotected in the 2006 winter meeting draft, Soria won a job last season in the Royals' bullpen and pitched so well closer Octavio Dotel became expendable. Soria went 17-for-21 in save chances and had an ERA of 2.48, third among major league rookies.
This year he has been even better. He began the week with 20 strikeouts while allowing only five hits and two walks in 17 1-3 innings. Opponents were batting .088 against the right-hander.
He threw 16 2-3 scoreless innings to start the season, one-third of an inning shy of the Royals record. His 11-for-11 start in saves matches Al Hrabosky's 1978 team record to begin a season.
The Royals have finished last in the AL Central the past four years, but they began this week within a game of .500 and in the thick of this year's race thanks in large part to the contribution of their closer.
"No matter how much I say, it's still going to understate it," manager Trey Hillman said. "I like the calmness with which he goes about his business. For the comfort level of the club, with our youth, I think it helps to have a guy who takes the mound in that situation be a calm guy, rather than a guy who has a lot of moving parts and 'Wild Thing' playing on the speaker system when he comes in."
At home Soria enters games to "Welcome to the Jungle." He grew a beard before this season but still looks boyish, especially when he smiles and flashes his braces.
But to hitters he's plenty intimidating, throwing four pitches with excellent command.
"The guy's amazing," teammate Jose Guillen said. "He's not going to blow you away with a 95-mph fastball, but he's a smart guy who knows what he's doing."
Soria's hero growing up was Greg Maddux, and like his idol, he gets hitters out by keeping them off balance and staying ahead in the count.
Soria throws a curve, slider, fastball and changeup - a large repertoire for a closer. He was a starter in the Mexican winter league and said he would be happy to join the Royals rotation.
"If the Royals need as a starter, I don't have any problem with that," he said. "I have fun being a closer, so maybe I would have fun being a starter, too."
His new contract was structured to account for such a change.
Soria, who's making $426,500 this season, will be paid $1 million in 2009, $3 million in 2010 and $4 million in 2011. The club options are $6 million for 2012, $8 million for 2013 and $8.75 million for 2014, with a $750,000 buyout for each. "It's a big deal for me, for my career and my family," Soria said.
Starting or closing, the Royals figure he'll be worth it.
BOSTON (AP) - The Boston Red Sox have installed solar water heaters at Fenway Park, as part of an effort to make the ballpark more environmentally friendly.
The Red Sox formally unveiled the rooftop system Monday. They say the heaters will generate enough heat to replace 37 percent of the gas traditionally used to heat water at Fenway Park.
The nonprofit Bonneville Environmental Foundation says the system will help avoid 18 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. That's the equivalent of planting 4.86 acres of trees or not driving a car for 43,611 miles.
The club is working on other "green" initiatives, including installing solar-powered trash compactors and collecting plastic soda and water bottles from fans during games.
Click the play button below to hear Sean's comments, recorded this morning. Today's topics: the Red Sox' interleague dominance, Josh Beckett's recent problems, Manny Delcarmen's increased responsibilities in the bullpen, and the coming starts by Justin Masterson and Bartolo Colon.
STANDING TALL ONCE AGAIN: When last we spoke, the Red Sox had lost four in a row and fallen behind Tampa Bay into second place in the A.L. East. But then along came the Brewers . . . or, perhaps more to the point, along came interleague play. Sean McAdam tells us that's been a boon to Boston in recent years and this weekend was no different, as the poor Brew Crew soon discovered. The Sox beat them Saturday afternoon, they pretty much beat themselves Saturday night, and the Sox overpowered them yesterday. (All stories projo.com.) So now it's Monday morning, the four-game losing streak has turned into a three-game winning streak, and the Red Sox once again lead the division. Hate interleague play (which, I'm ashamed to admit, was our stance last Friday)? Forget that. We're counting the days until June 13, when it resumes.
PAPI KNOWS BEST: Yesterday's double-and-two-homers afternoon would seem to indicate that David Ortiz (above) is finally, definitively, back on the beam (as they might have said in the 1940s). Steven Krasner goes Inside The Game to examine Ortiz' at-bats yesterday, and Joe Haggerty talks with Red Sox hitting instructor Dave Magadan, who tells how Ortiz has worked his way out of his early season slump. (hackswithhaggs.com)
WELL, THAT EXPLAINS IT: We all know the Red Sox have won two World Series in the last four seasons and we all know the roles Ortiz and Manny Ramirez have played in hanging those two flags. Makes sense, then, that SI.com's Jon Heyman would rank the signings of Ortiz and Ramirez as two of the five greatest free-agent acquisitions of all time -- Ortiz at No. 1 and Ramirez No. 5. And how I wish I could somehow travel back in time and show the piece to all the folks back in December 2000 who thought the free agent the Sox should should have signed back then was not Ramirez, but Mike Mussina.
LATE TO THE PARTY: The Jason Giambi/thong story, which has gotten play far beyond its importance, is explained by Peter Abraham. (LoHud Yankees Blog) As is true of most hot items of this type, it's much ado about nothing.
'HEY': That Phil Hughes' greeting on his blog after three weeks of silence. He doesn't say much beyond that, either.
FIGHTING FOR HIS LIFE: The New York Post reports former Yankee pitcher Dock Ellis -- who kicked drugs and alcohol nearly 30 years ago and became a drug counselor -- has cirrhosis of the liver and is deteriorating rapidly.
MEET THE MUSINGS MAN: I link to an item or two in Baseball Musings almost daily, so you know I'd in interested in Statistically Speaking's interview with David Pinto. His choices for the players he'd build his team around: Hanley Ramirez and Cole Hamels.
'WE HAVE A LOT OF ISSUES': Of course, beating the Tigers isn't the world's biggest trick these days, and manager Jim Leyland -- who admits he's "totally out of answers" -- plans to meet with general manager Dave Dombrowski today to discuss what can be done to fix things. (Detroit Free Press)
GROWING CONCERN: More and more attention is being paid to the constant shattering of maple bats and the dangers they post. The Washington Times' Mark Zuckerman reports commissioner Bud Selig is considering banning them.