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Royals victims of Lester's no-hitter

Royals victims of Lester's no-hitter

BOSTON -- Only Nolan Ryan had done it before.

Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester became just the second pitcher to no-hit the Royals in their franchise history on Monday night in Boston's 7-0 victory, as 37,746 fans packed Fenway Park.

It was the 18th no-hitter in Red Sox history and the first since Clay Buchholz threw one last Sept. 1. It was a great moment for Lester, who had overcome cancer and returned to the Red Sox just last season.

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"It really hasn't sunk in," Lester said. "Right now, it feels like I pitched and we won the game. I think it's like the World Series -- it takes a while for this to set in. ... I guess it's one of those things you get to enjoy later."

Lester walked just two and struck out nine, retiring 19 straight batters in one stretch.

"He didn't miss a spot," the Royals' Billy Butler said. "You don't see it every day -- hitting his spots like that. He didn't make any mistakes."

When Lester threw strike three past Alberto Callaspo for the last out of the ninth inning, catcher Jason Varitek bounced from behind the plate to envelop the pitcher in his arms.

Then the infielders joined in the celebration, and soon the entire Red Sox team was swarming around the 24-year-old lefty.

There was only one real scare for Lester.

A diving catch by center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury on Jose Guillen's line drive prevented a hit in the fourth inning. Ellsbury plucked the ball off the grass tops as he rushed into shallow center.

The red-hot Guillen's 10-game hitting streak came to a screeching halt. He was 0-for-3.

And not even Mark Grudzielanek, who came into the game as the American League's top hitter at .331, could break through. He struck out twice and tapped back to the mound before being replaced by Callaspo, as Royals manager Trey Hillman tries to keep the 37-year-old's body fresh.

"At first I didn't think he was really feeling it until the third, fourth, fifth inning, when he started going," said Grudzielanek. "Then his breaking balls and everything else started coming along for him.

"He's one of those guys who just doesn't throw a straight ball -- his cutter and his curve -- and he goes in and out. He and Varitek were in sync today, obviously."

Lester walked Butler with one out in the second inning. Butler was forced out, and with Miguel Olivo on first, Lester made a wild pickoff throw for an error. But he got Mark Teahen on a tap back to the mound, the first of 19 consecutive outs.

Esteban German drew the second walk as he led off the ninth inning. Lester ran the count to 3-0, threw one strike and then missed for ball four.

But that was it. The next three batters went out easily.

The Royals had just one no-hitter pitched against them previously. That was by the California Angels' Ryan, who fired the first of his record seven no-hitters on May 15, 1973, at Kauffman Stadium. He struck out 12 and walked three in the 3-0 victory.

Whether Lester would get a no-hitter or not was about the only question in this game. The Red Sox jumped into command with a five-run third inning.

A dropped pop fly by Grudzielanek, the one-time Gold Glove Award-winning second baseman, aided the Red Sox.

"Errors are going to happen," said Royals rookie pitcher Luke Hochevar.

So are walks.

Hochevar gave up one run, as J.D. Drew and Varitek each singled and Julio Lugo rapped into a double play. Ellsbury tripled and scored as Hochevar lost his control, walking the next three batters, who included David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez.

"They're good hitters and I wasn't going to give in and groove 'em anything, and I was going to stay aggressive down in the zone and let them get themselves out," Hochevar said.

"My thought process in that situation is, 'Be aggressive -- don't give in and don't give them anything they can drive.'"

Even at that, it was not too bad -- just 2-0 Red Sox. Mike Lowell lifted a high popup that Grudzielanek and shortstop Tony Pena drifted under. The strong wind caught the ball, Grudzielanek backpedaled and, thud, it glanced off his glove. Two more runs were in.

"I took my eye off it," Grudzielanek said. "At first, I didn't even think it was my ball. I was going to cover second, and then, as the play went on, I had to look up and I didn't see it until the very end there."

After the error, Hochevar gave up an RBI double to Kevin Youkilis. In the sixth, Hochevar surrendered a two-run homer to Varitek.

But the main story on this night at Fenway Park was Lester.

"He was good, and we didn't make enough adjustments," Hillman said. "He threw a no-hitter. There's not more I can say."

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

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