Who’s Mel Parnell? Ask Jon Lester. Sox win 7-0 in Lester No-Hitter.

Jon Lester, Sox’ LHP, 24 yo, cancer survivor, winning pitcher in 2007 World Series game 4, can now add No-Hitter to his list of accomplishments in a young and dramatically successful life. When you have to go back to 1956 to find the last Red Sox southpaw to pitch a no-hitter…that’s saying something. Lefty or righty, there are still few pitchers who can count a no-hitter among their accomplishments. Just so happens the last one was also a Red Sox pitcher, Clay Buccholz. And Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek caught 4 in his career – also a record. (Nomo, Lowe, Buccholz, and Lester)

But as ‘Tek said: this night belongs to Lester. With the poise that makes him a standout, Lester pitched a terrific game, despite the career high number of pitches thrown. You can’t tell me it’s just coincidence that the last two no-hitters were thrown by Red Sox rookies. Tonight’s no-no is more evidence of the Sox player development system, coaching and culture. Veterans bring up the rookies. Monied owners support the staff. The staff supports and develops the talent. Firing on all cylinders.

And that game was only one of two in this amazing night of sports.

NBA Game 7 San Antonio Spurs at New Orleans Hornets

Experience over youth. As a woman of a certain age, this is immensely satisfying to watch. Taking nothing away from the Hornets, watching the Spurs just reinforces how important composure, poise, strategy are as against youthful exuberance and confidence. Byron Scott, Hornets coach and owner of three rings himself, deserves all the credit in the world. Both for how he’s handled and developed the young talent he has, and for his poise in how he’s managed the external face of the game.

Even while the young Hornets’ players were giving sound bytes to reporters with more tenure covering games than they have playing them; Scott was deliberately downplaying their comments. Carefully, Coach Scott tread the line between demonstrating his faith in his team and encouraging them to read between the lines of his cautious, deliberate comments. Hoping to remind them of the off-camera sessions he no doubt had with them, he said things using the royal “we”. As in, “We seem to have forgotten…”

As a wise friend once reminded me, it’s simply a law of the universe that we cannot offer our experience to those younger than us, and hope to spare them the pain of our lessons learned. No matter how much respect it’s grounded in, such advice will not be heard. The grace with which Scott has handled each interview about his young team and their chances, has been great to watch.

How one learns from a tough situation, what is gained or not in going through it; that is more indicative of character and future success than what the situation is, or what your role was in getting yourself in the middle of it. This is true in life and true in the microcosm of sports. You see talented players get tested and learn from it, rise above, get better through it, or not. Often it’s got a lot to do with who is nearby to mentor them. The immensely talented young Hornets players are lucky to have Scott as their coach. How they use that luck and learn from this experience will tell us a lot about them.

Taking nothing away from this terrific young team, what did we see from this exciting game 7? I saw composure and experience. Experienced players baiting young players into fouling, seeing who would bite on what fake or what defense. Getting into someone’s head or under their skin. Testing how would they react to a given strategy, make the adjustment, or not. Would the Hornets player notice that a bucket was sacrificed for the knowledge it gave the Spurs? You had to know when both Paul and Chandler said after game 5 that they counted on home court advantage and “just needed to do what we do” to win that it was asking too much of Scott in 24 hours to impart his knowledge to them in time. Credit to the Hornets that they seem to have tried (Paul’s assists went up) and they will learn.

Even when they looked they might blow the lead and lose the game, the Spurs never panicked or lost their heads. If Plan A didn’t work, it was a smooth and quick transition to Plan B. The Spurs were in control of the pace, the crowd, the fouls, and the mental aspect of the game. Once all these factors are in your hands, whether you’re missing shots or not, doesn’t rattle you and doesn’t matter.

The next series will be much more entertaining with the Spurs facing the Lakers than the Hornets.

Just as Varitek and Lester could bait a batter, see if he’d swing on an outside pitch or adjust to a changeup; so could the Spurs test the Hornets.

Against the Lakers, the Spurs will have a much harder time. A brief look at the Lakers-Spurs numbers in playoffs is instructive. The Spurs have held Kobe’s numbers to lower figures than any other team he’s faced in this post-season. That’s just one data point. Neither team is taking this match-up lightly.

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~ by jacqueline1230 on May 21, 2008.

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