Lester's no-no is TYIB's best game

Lester's no-no is TYIB's best game

BOSTON -- As it turns out, Jon Lester's magical no-hitter on May 19 wasn't just the most memorable game that took place at Fenway Park in 2008, but also the most appreciated single-game performance by any player in the Major Leagues during the season.

Lester's no-no was selected as the top single-game performance of the season in MLB.com's annual This Year in Baseball Awards presented by State Farm, which were voted on by fans. A record 12 million votes were cast, eclipsing last year's total of 9.6 million.

The fans were emphatic in their support of Lester, who received 37.8 percent of the vote. Carlos Zambrano finished second at 14.1 percent for his no-hitter against the Astros on Sept. 14.

Former Red Sox outfielder Johnny Damon -- now with the Yankees -- turned in the third-best performance, garnering 12.9 percent of the votes for his 6-for-6, four-RBI game on June 7 that was capped with a walk-off hit.

There were so many elements to the Lester performance that took it beyond being just a no-hitter.

First and foremost, Lester had been diagnosed with a type of cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma some 17 months before the no-hitter.

Shortly after being mobbed on the mound by his teammates, Lester shared an emotional moment with manager Terry Francona.

"Through everything I've been through, he's been like a second dad to me," Lester said that night. "Just being able to talk to him, not as a manager, but as a friend, he cares a lot about his players. It's not just about what you can do on the field, it's what type of person you are, and he cares a lot about that."

The no-hitter was a record-setting fourth caught by Jason Varitek, who also was on the receiving end of those authored by Hideo Nomo (2001), Derek Lowe (2002) and Clay Buchholz (2007).

Varitek never saw this one coming.

"This was a weird one," Varitek said. "I didn't really know he had a no-hitter until the eighth. I looked up in the seventh and saw that he was around 100 pitches, and he did his job. I glanced in the bullpen and saw nobody warming up and thought that was weird."

After beating cancer, Lester's goal was to become a consistent starter the Red Sox could depend on every fifth day. The no-hitter was a breakout performance, one that seemed to spur on Lester for the rest of the season.

The left-hander finished 2008 with a 16-6 record and a 3.21 ERA. Lester was also a workhorse, logging 210 1/3 innings for Boston.

Lester's no-hitter was the 18th in Red Sox history.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.