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October 5, 2013

Vintage Lester had 'bite-your-head-off' mentality

(Continued)

“He’s a guy who before the game you don’t mess with him, you don’t talk to him, you stay out of his way,” Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks said about Lester. “He’s a bulldog. He’ll bite your head off. He’s so focused and that’s awesome because I feel like it rubs off on everybody in the clubhouse.”

Same as in 2008, Lester fell behind early, but when his team handed him a 5-2 lead (obviously more of a cushion than ‘08) with five runs in the bottom of the fourth, he was able to bear down and hold the opposition scoreless the rest of the way. It all began with a huge shutdown top of the fifth inning.

Middlebrooks, who Boston drafted in 2007, watched the Red Sox’ playoff runs in 2007, ‘08 and ‘09 on the television. He remembers Lester and Lackey, then with the Angels, opposing each other in Game 1 of the ALDS in ‘08 and ‘09 when Boston played in LA. He remembers Lester bearing down after Bay’s homer.

“When you have an inning or two that are big innings for you that change momentum, for him to go out and shut them down, it keeps that momentum for us going into the last couple of innings,” Middlebrooks said. “It’s huge, especially for our bullpen.”

After Lester’s shutdown fifth inning, Boston scored three more times in the bottom half to that frame for a 8-1 lead.

Lester, a cancer survivor, always has been a grinder. He certainly is talent but he doesn’t have the Left Arm of Gold that Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw possess. Several times as a youngster, Lester would make a couple mistakes but would keep grinding to earn a win. Often, he’d leave a game after five innings because of a high pitch count, but that was OK because he had put on his bulldog face and thrown five scoreless innings or kept his team in it.

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