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Jon Lester Notches 200th Career Victory: 'He's Like John Wayne, Just Got That True Grit'

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- Veteran left-hander Jon Lester reached a major milestone on Monday, recording the 200th victory of his career.

The 37-year-old allowed two runs over six innings against the Brewers, leaving the game with a 3-2 lead before giving way to a bullpen that pitched three scoreless innings. The Cardinals tacked on a run in the seventh and one more in the eighth for the 5-2 victory.

"I don't really know right now," Lester said after the win when asked for his feelings on the accomplishment. "Obviously it's a nice round number. It looks better than 199, I guess is kind of the obvious. But, I mean, I know the game has changed so much over the years, just with pitchers and going deep into games and getting W's. I've seen analysts and stuff trying to take the W away from the starting pitcher and [saying] it doesn't mean a lot. But I was brought up in this game that, your name is in that score box the next day, and it's either going to have a W or an L next to it, and hopefully more times than not, it's got those W's. So, like I said, I don't know right at this moment -- I mean, it's obviously awesome, and I'm kind of lacking words. But obviously very exciting."

While Lester's never been one for self-promotion, his manager -- Mike Shildt -- had plenty of praise for the lefty after Monday's win.

"Obviously, he's pitched tremendously well, done a great job, made a few adjustments, but this guy's got such heart and competitive fire. So it's really fun to watch him go out and compete," Shildt said. "He's like John Wayne. You know, just got that 'True Grit.' Big, strong, silent type. Done a nice job, not only on the mound obviously, but his preparation, this guy is really dedicated to his craft. That always has a residual benefit. And he's got the intestinal fortitude to compete, he's got a huge heart. And, you know, congratulations on his 200th win. That's a heck of a milestone, and he's not done. He's got more in him."

Shildt continued: "His numbers put him towards the Hall of Fame, so it's a special accomplishment that we're excited to be a part of, and we want to wish him the best congratulations on an amazing accomplishment. Like I said, he's still got more W's and more pitching to go."

A second-round pick by the Red Sox in the 2002 draft, Lester made his big league debut with Boston in 2006. He was diagnosed with lymphoma late in that season, but returned to the Red Sox in 2007, helping the team win its second World Series in four years.

Lester won 110 regular-season games (and six postseason games) in his nine seasons with the Red Sox.

After that, he won six games in his brief stint with Oakland before winning 77 games for the Cubs from 2015-20. He also won three playoff games for Chicago, winning the World Series in 2016 after earning NLCS Co-MVP honors against the Dodgers. Lester started the 2021 season with Washington, where he won three games, before getting traded at the deadline to St. Louis, where he's now gone 4-1 in 10 starts.

The milestone for Lester was significant, as only two other active pitchers -- Zack Greinke (219) and Justin Verlander (226) -- have 200 wins. Max Scherzer (190) and Clayton Kershaw (185) are next in line to reach the mark, but they may be the last pitchers to reach the milestone for some time. Madison Bumgarner (127), Gerrit Cole (116) and Chris Sale (113) figure to have the best chances, among active pitchers with at least 100 wins.

Lester's now the 119th pitcher to record 200 career wins. He can climb into the top 100 with 10 more victories in his career.

Yet it was bigger for the Cardinals, who have now won nine straight games and have a three-game lead in the race for the final NL wild-card spot.

"Right now, just with us playing good baseball and nine in a row right there, I think I just gave a good quality start and was able to pick up the W," Lester said. "Like I said, I'm kind of all over the place with the answer, but one day I'll be able to articulate it a little bit better."


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