The fans roared as the Red Sox ace walked slowly toward the dugout, tipping his cap. He had given them plenty to cheer about all night.
Lester allowed five hits in 7 2-3 innings, and even started an inning-ending double play, to help Boston beat the St. Louis Cardinals 8-1 in Game 1 on Wednesday night.
On another chilly October night six years earlier, Lester won the final game of the World Series with 5 2-3 shutout innings as Boston completed a four-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies with a 4-3 victory.
Back-to-back World Series starts for Lester one completing a championship drive, another, perhaps, starting one.
He struck out eight, walked one and left after retiring Matt Carpenter on a routine fly to left field on his 112th pitch.
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 the postseason with a 3-1 record and 1.67 ERA in four games.
Before the game, Boston second-game starter John Lackey said Thursday would be "a business day" for him. He expected to have his fun Wednesday watching Lester.
"I'm going to enjoy it more tonight, probably, watching my buddy pitch," Lackey said. "Rooting hard for Lester. That will be kind of fun to be a fan tonight, to watch him and root him on."
Staked to a 5-0 lead after two innings, Lester allowed one hit and struck out four in the first three.
He ran into trouble in the fourth when he walked leadoff batter Jon Jay and struck out Matt Holliday. But St. Louis loaded the bases on singles by Allen Craig and Yadier Molina. Then Lester took matters into his own hands, getting David Freese to ground the ball back to him.
Lester threw home for one out and catcher David Ross fired the ball to first baseman Mike Napoli, completing the double play.
Lester allowed two singles in the fifth, then retired Jay on a ground out to end the inning. That began a stretch in which he retired the last nine batters before being replaced by Junichi Tazawa.