Lester stays sharp, pitches Red Sox to 8-1 win

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BOSTON (AP) - Jon Lester got used to the World Series hoopla when he clinched a championship for Boston six years ago.

No wonder he looked so calm and comfortable Wednesday night.

The left-hander allowed five hits in 7 2-3 shutout innings and even started a big double play that helped the Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals 8-1 in Game 1.

Lester already had dealt with World Series distractions when, on another chilly October night in 2007, he won the final game with 5 2-3 shutout innings as Boston completed a four-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies with a 4-3 victory.

“Obviously, there’s going to be a lot of festivities, the introductions, the flyovers, the national anthems,” Lester said. “Everything’s quadrupled in the World Series. So you know how to handle those situations, your warmup time, so forth.

“And being in that situation in 2007 definitely prepared me for tonight.”

Back-to-back World Series starts for Lester _ one completing a championship drive, another, perhaps, starting one.

Lester threw a cutter in the eighth inning for his final out of the game.

The fans at Fenway Park roared as he walked slowly toward the dugout, tipping his cap. He was embraced by Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who got the night off as catcher so Lester could throw to the one he’s been so successful with recently, David Ross.

“Salty did a great job for us this year. For whatever reason, me and Ross right now are clicking,” Lester said.

He struck out eight, walked one and left after retiring Matt Carpenter on a routine fly to left field on his 112th pitch.

“That’s kind of what we expected” from Lester, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.

Lester had struggled going into the All-Star game. He was 2-6 in his last 11 starts before the break. But he took nine days off between starts, fixed what he was doing wrong and has been outstanding ever since. He was 7-2 in his last 11 regular-season starts and continued his success in October. He is 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA in four games this postseason.

“He was just incredible,” Red Sox left fielder Jonny Gomes said. “He’s climbing the ranks as one of the best left-handers in the game.”

Before the game, Boston Game 2 starter John Lackey said Thursday would be “a business day” for him. He expected to have his fun Wednesday watching Lester.

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