Youth of the Nation: Lester follows Clay
Last year's no-hit sensation ecstatic for his teammate's feat
BOSTON -- In a clubhouse full of veteran pitchers with years of experience and accomplishments, the only hurler who could put the proper perspective on Jon Lester's no-hitter on Monday night was the only pitcher on the staff younger than the 24-year-old.
"I was trying to think along with him, but I think I was a little more nervous for his than I was for mine," said Clay Buchholz, the 23-year-old right-hander who threw a no-hitter on Sept. 1, 2007, at Fenway Park in his second Major League appearance.
"I had more time to think about [his]. I went out just trying to throw strikes and get guys to swing and get outs. That's what his main thing was, to go out there tonight and get outs, throw pitches in the zone, pound the zone, and get some swings out of it. And he went out there and did his job and got rewarded for it."
At the time of Buchholz's no-no, as a September callup shutting down the Orioles, the rookie was still adjusting to being a big leaguer.
"I was speechless [after the game]," he said. "I didn't know what to say, second game up here and something like that happens. He's been around a little bit longer than I have so he might know how to handle it a little bit better. But I really couldn't tell you what I was thinking, who the first person I talked to was. It was all a blur for me. But he seems to be taking it pretty well."
In Buchholz's no-hitter, it wasn't until the sixth inning when he realized what was going on.
"The pressure for me wasn't the ninth," he said. "It was after they told me I was throwing six innings that day, give them a good six innings and I'd be done. And I sat down on the bench, and nobody came and talked to me after the sixth inning. I looked up on the scoreboard, and that's when I saw it and I went, 'Oh, God, here we go.' So for [Lester], he looked a little nervous going out for the ninth, but after the first batter -- he walked him -- I saw him sort of take a deep breath, and [he] went back to work and did what he had to do."
For Buchholz, it was easier to be the pitcher than to watch his teammate.
"Being the pitcher, I didn't find myself thinking a whole lot about the game," Buchholz said. "I was thinking about what I was doing. Then being on the bench, you know what's going on and you know everybody around you knows what's going on. It might be a little bit more tough being on the bench and watching, because you know all it takes is one pitch and it could disappear just as quick as it appeared. So, for me sitting on the bench, I was a little nerve-wracked there for a while."
As were several of his teammates. Dugout superstitions were checked and rechecked to ensure the gem for Lester.
"You really don't say too much to him," said Jacoby Ellsbury, whose sterling catch in center in the fourth inning helped to ensure the no-no. "You just kind of let him be. Whatever his routine is, no one really wants to say anything to him, just kind of let him be.
"I remember when Clay had his, we just kind of left him on his own. I don't think anybody was within five or six feet of him. And Jon, he was relaxed. If I was a spectator watching him, I wouldn't have known if I hadn't looked at the scoreboard that he had a no-hitter going. He was pretty relaxed."
"I don't know how [Lester] can be more nervous than I am," said Josh Beckett. "It was like that with [Curt Schilling's one-hitter in Oakland last season] and Buchholz's. I'm sure everybody else on the bench is feeling the same way. It makes me want to puke, how nervous I am. I can't imagine actually going out there.
"I think I had a no-hitter in the first [inning] one time, so I don't really know. I haven't ever really taken one that deep. So I just can't imagine, because he's got to be a little more nervous than we are.
"Me and some of the guys were joking about it. We didn't know what to do. Do we stand up? Do we sit down? What are we supposed to do? If we're eating a candy bar and we figure out he has a no-hitter, do we keep eating candy bars? Who knows?"
Who knows? But on Monday night, whatever they decided, it worked.
Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.