Lester is a no-hit wonder

Hartford Courant

BOSTON -- When it was over, and Jon Lester had pitched himself -- again -- into Red Sox lore, he fell into a long embrace with Manager Terry Francona.

The manager and the young left-hander have always shared a special bond, forged forever after Lester's cancer scare in 2006. Francona, tears glistening in his eyes, said that Lester is like a son to him. Lester, in turn, calls Francona a second father.

It seemed as if all 37,746 at Fenway Park -- not to mention the occupants of the Red Sox dugout -- felt like a proud parent of Jon Lester on Monday night.

The cancer survivor and World Series star added a whole new chapter to his personal feel-good tale, throwing the 18th no-hitter in Red Sox history, mastering the Kansas City Royals, 7-0.

"It's something I'll remember forever, a lot of excitement," Lester said. "I think I had more adrenaline going in the ninth inning than I did in the first inning. It was great. The fans were great, they were on their feet yelling and screaming. It was probably one of the loudest times I've heard Fenway when I've been out there pitching.

"It really hasn't sunk in. It takes awhile for this to set in and give you time to reflect on it. I guess it's one of those things you get to enjoy later."

It was the first no-hitter in the major leagues this season and the first for the Red Sox since Sept. 1, when another emerging Red Sox pitching star, Clay Buchholz, no-hit the Orioles at Fenway.

Lester, 24, is less than a season removed from his return to the majors after being diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma in August 2006. He capped his comeback season by beating the Colorado Rockies in Game 4 of the World Series in October.

"It makes the story that much better," said third baseman Mike Lowell, also a cancer survivor. "I think his story is a great one to start. This is a nice exclamation point for him."

Lester walked only two and ended the night in style, striking out pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo swinging, then jumping into catcher Jason Varitek's arms before the team and the manager swarmed him with hugs.

"I feel like my son graduated and my son threw a no-hitter," said Francona, whose son Nick graduated from the University of Pennsylvania earlier Monday. "It couldn't happen to a better kid. That's probably selfish on my part to even say something like that, but I think it's obvious how we feel about this kid.

"He's a wonderful kid, not because he threw a no-hitter. He's a good kid because he's a good kid."

Lester (3-2, 3.41 earned-run average), who threw a career-high 130 pitches, came close to losing the no-hitter only once, when Jose Guillen hit a sinking liner to right center with two out in the fourth. But Jacoby Ellsbury raced over and made a diving catch.

Lester walked Billy Butler with one out in the second inning, then retired the next 20 Royals in a row, before walking Esteban German to start the ninth. He struck out nine, one shy of his career high.

"The Red Sox did most of their damage in the third inning, sending 10 men to the plate and scoring five runs against rookie Luke Hochevar (3-3, 4.29).

Varitek, who caught his major league record fourth no-hitter, added a two-run homer in the sixth to make it 7-0.

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