With the watchful eyes of his parents and all of Red Sox Nation on him, Jon Lester made a triumphant return to the big leagues on Monday night as he went six innings in a 6-2 win over Cleveland. Lester had last pitched for the Red Sox on August 23, 2006, a game in which he got the victory. Lester wasn’t perfect tonight but he didn’t have to be as his teammates got him a lead right off the bat. The top four in the Sox lineup led the way with 12 of the 14 hits, with Coco getting 4 hits against his former team in his return to the Jake.

Manuel being ManuelAs I said above, the Sox struck quickly against Indians starter Jake Westbrook. Coco led off the game with a single and went to second on a Dustin Pedroia single, one of his three hits on the night. Westbrook then walked Kevin Youkilis to load up the bases for Manny Ramirez. The former Indian hurt his old team as he hit a double, scoring Coco and Pedroia. J.D. Drew brought in the third run of the inning with a single scoring Youk and moving Manny over to third. Westbrook then got Lowell to ground into a 5-4-3 double play that scored Manny for a 4-0 lead. Jason Varitek worked a 2 out walk but Westbrook got Eric Hinske to ground out to first ending the inning.

Lester came out to the mound to smattering of applause as he made his warmup pitches. His first pitch back in the big leagues was a 91 MPH fastball to Grady Sizemore. He ended up retiring Sizemore on a ground out. He then struck out Jason Michaels for the second out of the inning. A no-hitter wasn’t to be in Lester’s return as Casey Blake hit a single. Lester followed that by getting Travis Hafner to fly out.

Julio Lugo led off the 2nd trying to bunt his way on but he bunted it right to Westbrook for the first out. Coco then laced a double to deep center. Pedroia was unable to bring him in or move him over as he grounded out to third. Youk was up to the task though as he fought off an inside fastball from Westbrook and hit it the other way to plate Coco for a 5-0 Sox lead. Westbrook got himself out of the inning as Manny was a statue on a called strike three.

Lester's return to the showLester had a relatively easy second inning although he plunked Ryan Garko with a cut fastball. After getting Kelly Shoppach to strikeout to start the third inning, Lester gave up a single to Jesse Barfield. Sizemore made Lester pay for leaving a fastball up in the zone as he crushed it into the rightfield seats for a 2-run homer. That cut the lead to 5-2. He then got Michaels to pop out to second but followed that with a walk to Blake. He got out of the inning as he struck out Hafner on a fastball.

In the 4th inning, Lester had some command issues but worked his way out of them. Garko led off the inning with a double to deep left. Both Garko and Pedroia came up a little lame as the play was close at second. Both were ok and stayed in the game. Lester walked Jhonny Peralta but got Franklin Gutierrez to strikeout. Lester loaded up the bases for Barfield as he walked Shoppach. After a visit to the mound, Lester got Barfield to hit a comebacker that Lester fumbled a bit but was still able to get Garko on a force play at the plate. Lester got of the jam he created by getting Sizemore to strikeout on a 93 MPH fastball. I think after the strikeout his mom started to breath again.

Meanwhile the pitcher from across the diamond, Westbrook had settled down after a rough third inning in which he allowed 2 walks and single but no runs. He allowed singles in the 4th and 5th innings but induced double plays both times.

Lester was outstanding in the 5th and 6th innings after an almost disastrous 4th. He worked a 1-2-3 5th inning and allowed a single to Peralta in the 6th. He got out of the inning as he got Gutierrez to ground into a 6-4-3 that ended the inning and an absolute amazing performance.

Lester went 6 innings, allowing 5 hits, 2 runs, 3 walks and he struck out 6 on 96 pitches.

Mike Timlin worked a perfect 7th inning and got the first out of the 8th before Blake singled. Terry Francona went to the bullpen and brought in Javier Lopez to face the lefty Hafner. Lopez did his job by getting Hafner to strikeout. Francona then went back to the bullpen for Manny Delcarmen. Delcarmen finished off the inning with a strikeout of Garko.

The Sox added an insurance run in the 9th inning off of Jason Stanford. Coco led off with his fourth hit of the night, an infield single. He went to 2nd on an errant throw from Blake. With Pedroia at the plate, Coco moved over to third on a passed ball by Shoppach. Pedroia brought in Crisp with a single, making it 6-2 Sox. Tom Mastny came in for Stanford and struck out the side, only allowing a walk to Manny.

Delcarmen came back out for the bottom of the 9th and worked a perfect 1-2-3 inning for his first career save and first win of 2007 for Lester. It was nice to see Tito have faith in Delcarmen just one day after he had a bad outing. That is something I have always liked about Tito though, as he always gives guys a chance to get back up on the horse after falling off it.

Back to the big story of the night, Lester and his return from cancer. While he wasn’t totally outstanding, he got his job done. It was just amazing enough for him to beat the cancer and now he’s back out winning games in the big leagues. I will admit that I got chills when he went out to the mound. How could you not?

Lester’s win helped the Sox to their fourth straight win. They now turn to Daisuke Matsuzaka on Tuesday night. He will be opposed by Cleveland ace, C.C. Sabbathia. Gametime is 7:05 PM.



The Sox lead is still 7.5 games as the Skanks won another game tonight.

The Red Sox play only 3 of their next 19 games at the Fens.

The Red Sox had lost their last 6 road games before tonight’s win.

Mike Timlin has now worked 16 consecutive scoreless innings through tonight’s game.

Manny Ramirez, Coco Crisp, Julian Tavarez, John Farrell and Terry Francona have all spent time in Cleveland during their careers.

Julio Lugo has a 13 game hitting streak. It is the second longest in the majors right now behind the Indians’ Ryan Garko who extended his to 16 games with a double in the 4th inning.

Manny Ramirez moved into 34th place for career RBI. He now has 1,576.

The Indians’ catcher tonight, Kelly Shoppach, was a 2nd round draft choice of the Red Sox in 2001. He was traded to Cleveland as part of the Coco Crisp deal.