Sox Drop Opener in Chicago; Lester Earns First Loss of 2013

Jon Lester was battered early and often by the White Sox, giving up five earned in the first two innings, and Chicago took the series opener, 6-4. Lester actually hung around to finish the night with six innings as manager John Farrell avoided going into the mop-up long relievers, but it wasn’t enough as the resurgent lefty lost for the first time in 2013.

Most of the damage inflicted by the White Sox came with two outs.  In the first, Lester set down the first two batters before allowing a single to Alex Rios and a walk to Paul Konerko.  When Adam Dunn stepped up, one wouldn’t have argued if you thought the inning was all but over, as came up hitting a paltry .169 (and just 2-30 against left handers).  Lester fell behind in the count, and served a pitch up in the zone that Dunn would probably, at his stature, have hit out of the park swinging a toothpick.

Adam Dunn tracks the flight of his first inning, three-run home run.

Adam Dunn tracks the flight of his first inning, three-run home run.

Again in the second, Lester retired the first two batters. Again, he could not close the door on the White Sox. Number nine hitter Tyler Greene drove a pitch to deep right for a double, and was followed by an Alejandro De Aza double on a 1-2 pitch, scoring Greene.  Shortstop Alexei Ramirez stepped up and made it three straight doubles, and the South-Siders were up 5-0.

With the Red Sox in the midst of a hot road trip, one had to figure a comeback was in the cards, and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia got Boston on the board with a two-run home run in the third, scoring Stephen Drew.

Chicago bit back in the fifth, again with two outs for Jon Lester.  The first two batters reached for the White Sox, but a Paul Konerko double-play looked like welcome relief to Lester.  He proceeded to get ahead of Adam Dunn 0-2, which usually means a certain strikeout to, perhaps, the most prolific strikeout batter in history.  Lester couldn’t entice Dunn to chase, and Dunn took four straight out of the zone.  Left-fielder Dayan Viciedo battled Lester on a nine pitch at-bat and got the better of it, singling home Ramirez for the 6-2 Chicago lead.

After six strong innings by White Sox starter Dylan Axelrod, manager Robin Ventura called on lefty Matt Thornton to face David Ortiz.  Instead, Thornton walked both he and Mike Napoli on 3-2 pitches, and Will Middlebrooks delivered a double to deep left, bringing home both runners and cutting down the deficit, 6-4. 

Clayton Mortensen and Craig Breslow pitched two scoreless innings after Lester departed with six shaky – albeit tough – innings. After Jesse Crain pitched a scoreless eighth, Chicago closer Addison Reed came on and was met with a Mike Napoli lead-off single. One out later, Middlebrooks almost came through again, taking the air out of US Cellular Field with a blast to dead center field that was caught 400 feet from the plate for the second out. Stephen Drew couldn’t do anything against Reed, and grounded out to end the game with Napoli on second.

With their five game winning streak snapped, the Sox of the red varietal will look to begin a new winning streak when Felix Doubront takes the hill tonight against Chicago ace Chris Sale (5-2 2.53 ERA).  Sale has won his last four decisions including a 13 strikeout performance against the Angels on Friday.

Inside the Game

-Adam Dunn recently cahnged his approach at the plate, and is since 9-25 (.360) with 5 home runs and 13 RBI in his last seven games.

-Dustin Pedroia led off the fourth with an infield single, extending his hitting streak to 12 games

-Jacoby Ellsbury returned to action after a scheduled day off Sunday, but continued his struggles in going 0-4.  He is now just 3 for his last 24 (.125) without an extra base hit.

-In going 2-3 with a HR, Jarrod Saltalamacchia is quietly inching up on the Sox leaderboard, he is now fourth on the team with an .842 OPS.  He is batting .333 in May with a .986 OPS.

-Jon Lester suffered his first defeat since last September 26.

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