Red Sox-White Sox Live: Jon Lester Struggles As Chicago Plates Six Two-Out Runs in Series-Opening Win

Jon Lester

Final, White Sox 6-4: And that’ll do it.

A bit of a tailwind might have changed the Red Sox’ fortunes in the ninth inning, as Will Middlebrooks’ deep fly ball fell about two feet short of leaving the yard with Mike Napoli on first.

Paul Konerko then made a great diving stop on a sharp Stephen Drew grounder before flipping to closer Addison Reed to put this one in the books.

Jon Lester struggled out of the gate for the Red Sox, allowing the six Chicago runs (five earned) on seven hits and three walks over six innings. The White Sox had their “fun with two,” scoring all six of their runs with two out to saddle Lester (6-1) with his first loss of the season.

These two teams will be back at it again Tuesday night — same time, same place. Felix Doubront will start for Boston opposite Chicago’s Jose Quintana. See you all back here tomorrow.

End 8th, White Sox 6-4: The White Sox threatened to add to their lead in the eighth, putting runners on second and third with one out, but Craig Breslow was able to escape unscathed.

With pinch runner Casper Wells on third and Jeff Keppinger, who doubled inside the third-base bag, on second, Breslow got Tyler Flowers to pop out to third and Tyler Greene to line out to first to leave ‘em stranded.

The team is now reporting that Shane Victorino left tonight’s game with tightness in his left hamstring, meaning that his injury was not a reaggravation of the back problems that sidelined him last week.

Mid 8th, White Sox 6-4: Jacoby Ellsbury and Tyler Greene have become very well-acquainted tonight, as the Red Sox leadoff man has now grounded out to Chicago’s second baseman four times in this game.

May has not been kind to Ellsbury, who has seen both his average and on-base percentage steadily dwindle over the past few weeks. As NESN.com hockey guy Mike Cole points out, the center fielder is hitting just .133 over his last 14 games.

The Red Sox got a walk by Jonny Gomes, but nothing else off Jesse Crain in the eighth. Craig Breslow will attempt to keep the deficit at two runs in the bottom of the inning.

End 7th, White Sox 6-4: Clayton Mortensen relieves Jon Lester in the seventh and records three quick ground-ball outs.

Tonight was not Lester’s finest outing, allowing six runs (five earned) on seven hits and three walks over six innings.

He had no trouble starting strong, retiring the first two batters in five of his six frames, but that third out proved elusive. All six Chicago runs tonight have come with two outs.

The Red Sox have clawed their way back into this game, though, and trail by just a pair as we head to the eighth. The top of the order is due up.

Mid 7th, White Sox 6-4: Dylan Axelrod can’t be very pleased in the White Sox dugout right now.

Axelrod was lifted in favor of reliever Matt Thornton before the seventh inning, and Thornton proceeded to open the frame by walking both David Ortiz and Mike Napoli.

After Daniel Nava flew out to right, Will Middlebrooks’ wall-ball double was misplayed by left fielder Dayan Viciedo, allowing both runners to score to cut Chicago’s lead in half.

Thornton the got a gift from home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez when Stephen Drew was punched out on a pitch that looked to be clearly outside. Jarrod Saltalamacchia then made a bid for his second home run of the night, but his fly ball stalled at the warning track.

The damage was done, though, and the Red Sox now trail by just two runs heading into the seventh-inning stretch.

End 6th, White Sox 6-2: Jon Lester turns in a much-needed 1-2-3 inning, and we head to the seventh.

No word has emerged on the condition of Shane Victorino, who appeared to injure himself while beating out an infield single last inning. One would gather (and this is only speculation) that he may have tweaked his back, which has given him problems on multiple occasions this season. We’ll bring you more as information as it’s released.

Dylan Axelrod’s night is done, as Matt Thornton takes over on the mound for Chicago. Axelrod exits with a solid line of two runs on four hits and a walk over six innings, striking out to. He is in line for his second win of the season if the White Sox can hold on.

Mid 6th, White Sox 6-2: The Red Sox recorded two hits in an inning for the first time tonight, but a well-timed double play foiled their scoring chances.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled to lead off the sixth — his second hit of the night — but Alexei Ramirez made another nifty defensive play with Jacoby Ellsbury at the plate, avoiding the sliding Salty and spinning to retire the speedy leadoff man and complete Chicago’s second double play of the night.

Shane Victorino then followed with a single of his own, but Dustin Pedroia flew out to the warning track in center to end the inning.

Bad news for the Red Sox, as Victorino appears to have pulled something while beating out that infield single. John Farrell removed him from the game prior to the bottom of the sixth, with Daniel Nava shifting over to right field and Jonny Gomes taking over in left.

End 5th, White Sox 6-2: The White Sox put three runners on without recording a hit, bringing out Juan Nieves for his second mound visit of the night.

Alexei Ramirez reached on an error to open the inning, as his ground ball bounced off Will Middlebrooks’ glove and Stephen Drew couldn’t wrangle the carom in time to nab the Chicago shortstop at first.

A pair of overthrows (one on Drew’s throw to first and another on Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s attempt to catch Ramirez stealing) could have proved costly, as well, but Ramirez chose not to try his luck on either.

Lester then walked Alex Rios but was bailed out by a big 4-6-3 double play, though it did allow Ramirez to advance to third. He then got ahead of Adam Dunn 0-2 but could not retire the strikeout-prone designated hitter, instead throwing four consecutive balls to issue his second free pass of the inning.

Dayan Viciedo’s ensuing single up the middle allowed Ramirez to score easily from third, increasing the White Sox’ lead to 6-2. All six runs have come with two outs.

Jeff Keppinger popped out in foul territory to end the inning.

Mid 5th, White Sox 5-2: Stephen Drew gave a full-count fastball from Dylan Axelrod a ride, almost coming up with a home run nearly identical to Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s back in the third inning, but his fly ball ran out of gas at the warning track.

The fell into Dayan Viciedo’s glove to complete yet another 1-2-3 inning for Axelrod, his fourth in five innings.

Daniel Nava also lined out softly to right field and Will Middlebrooks struck out swinging in the frame.

End 4th, White Sox 5-2: Jon Lester seems to have finally found a groove, retiring the two Tylers (Flowers and Greene) and Alejandro De Aza all on ground balls for his first 1-2-3 inning of the night.

The Sox still trail by three, though, as Dylan Axelrod has been very strong on the mound for Chicago. Daniel Nava is due up first against the right-hander in the fifth.

Mid 4th, White Sox 5-2: Dustin Pedroia has improved his hitting streak to 12 games after beating out an infield single to lead off the fourth.

Jeff Keppinger almost managed to retire Pedroia with what would have been a heck of a play, snagging the sharp grounder with his bare hand, but his throw arrived a half-second late.

Dylan Axelrod was still able to complete his third 1-2-3 inning of the night, though, as he got David Ortiz to ground into a 3-6-3 double play and struck out Mike Napoli swinging.

Napoli’s 60 K’s on the season rank second in the majors behind Houston’s Chris Carter (65).

End 3rd, White Sox 5-2: Jon Lester retired the first two batters of the third inning before allowing a base hit. Stop me if this is sounding repetitive.

Luckily for the Red Sox, Lester was able to escape this one without allowing further damage. It wasn’t without drama, as a Jeff Keppinger line drive that landed just inches foul down the left-field line would have likely allowed Dayan Viciedo to score from first first.

But Lester got Keppinger to ground out to short on the next pitch, stranding Viciedo, who singled an at-bat earlier.

Lester’s pitch count is climbing dangerously high, as the lefty has already thrown 61 pitches through the first three innings.

Mid 3rd, White Sox 5-2: Well, that’s a good place to start.

After Stephen Drew worked a one-out walk to give Boston its first baserunner of the night, Jarrod Saltalamacchia put just enough of a charge into a low fastball for it to clear the wall in left-center field.

Salty’s fifth homer of the year — and his second in three games — cut the Chicago lead to three runs before Jacoby Ellsbury (groundout) and Shane Victorino (popout) went down consecutively to end the frame.

End 2nd, White Sox 5-0: Jon Lester again retired the first two batters in the second, but he was again unable to shut the door on the White Sox.

Chicago responded with three two-out doubles by Tyler Greene, Alejandro De Aza and Alexei Ramirez to run its lead to 5-0 and prompt a mound visit by Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves.

Lester’s early struggles tonight are uncharacteristic of the pitcher’s performance so far this year. In 10 starts, he has allowed a first-inning run just once (April 30 in Toronto) and has never surrendered more than one in the opening frame. The five earned runs allowed tonight already matches his season high.

Alex Rios popped out to shallow center to end the inning, and the bottom third of the Red Sox order will look to chip away at Chicago’s lead in the third.

Mid 2nd, White Sox 3-0: The Red Sox go down in order again in the second, thanks to a pair of nice plays by Alexei Ramirez.

The shortstop first charged a slow roller off the bat of David Ortiz to retire the designated hitter, who has never run particularly well. He then showed some quick reflexes in corralling Mike Napoli’s low line drive that skipped off the dirt near the outfield grass.

Daniel Nava then flew out to center to end the inning.

Dylan Axelrod has been efficient for Chicago tonight, needing just 19 pitches to retire the first six batters.

End 1st, White Sox 3-0: Alex Rios entered tonight with a league-leading 14-game hit streak, and he didn’t have to wait long to extend it.

After Alejandro De Aza popped out to short and Alexei Ramirez struck out swinging, Rios singled up the middle off Jon Lester for the game’s first hit. Rios then stole second on a 2-1 pitch to Paul Konerko, and Lester proceeded to walk the veteran first baseman to put a pair of runners on for Adam Dunn.

Dunn then did what he does best (no, not strike out), sending Lester’s offering into the right-field seats to give Chicago an early 3-0 lead.

Dayan Viciedo grounded out to shortstop Stephen Drew to end the inning.

Mid 1st, 0-0: Axelrod makes quick work of the Red Sox in the first, retiring Ellsbury, Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia in order on nine pitches.

Pedroia has paced the Sox’ lineup over the past two weeks. He carries a team-high 11 game hitting streak into tonight and went 2-for-5 with a home run, three RBIs and two runs scored in yesterday’s 5-1 win in Minnesota.

Alejandro De Aza, Alexei Ramirez and the red-hot Alex Rios are due up for the White Sox against Jon Lester.

8:10 p.m.: Jacoby Ellsbury, returning to the leadoff spot after sitting out yesterday’s game, takes ball one from Dylan Axelrod and we are underway in the Windy City.

Ellsbury has faced the 27-year-old righty just three times in his career, going 0-for-3 with a strikeout.

7:35 p.m.: It was pouring buckets moments ago back home in Boston, but the forecast at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago calls for clear skies and temperatures in the 70s and 80s throughout the evening.

In other words: perfect weather for baseball.

The first pitch from White Sox starter Dylan Axelrod is scheduled for just about 45 minutes from now.

5:45 p.m.: After fielding an unorthodox lineup in each of the weekend’s three games in Minnesota, the Red Sox will trot out their usual starting nine tonight.

Stephen Drew, who was spelled by Pedro Ciriaco on Saturday and Sunday, returns at shortstop and bats eighth after sitting out with back pain caused by an awkward slide into second base during Friday night’s win.

Jacoby Ellsbury will also be back in the leadoff spot for the 44th time this year after receiving his first off day on Sunday.

The Red Sox will hope the afternoon off lit a fire under Ellsbury, as the center fielder has struggled to get on base at a consistent clip this season. He currently ranks eighth among active Red Sox hitters in batting average (.246) and 11th in on-base percentage (.309). Ellsbury has been productive when he does reach, though, trailing only Dustin Pedroia with 24 runs scored (granted he has taken 15 more at-bats than any other Boston player) and tying for third in the majors with 13 stolen bases on the season.

The Sox will be facing a Chicago offense that has floundered in the cellar of the American League (ranking 26th or lower in total runs, team average and team slugging percentage) and is buoyed in every way by right fielder Alex Rios.

Rios has started all 42 games for the White Sox and leads the team in literally every offensive category, compiling a .301/.363/.558 slash line with 10 doubles, 10 home runs and 25 RBIs. He comes in riding an AL-leading 14-game hit streak and is one of the few prominent names — along with Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn — in a lineup filled primary with up-and-comers or journeymen.

Here are the full starting lineups for both teams:

Red Sox
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Shane Victorino, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Napoli, 1B
Daniel Nava, LF
Will Middlebrooks, 3B
Stephen Drew, SS
Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Jon Lester, LHP

White Sox 
Alejandro De Aza, CF
Alexei Ramirez, SS
Alex Rios, RF
Paul Konerko, 1B
Adam Dunn, DH
Dayan Viciedo, LF
Jeff Keppinger, 3B
Tyler Flowers, C
Tyler Greene, 2B

Dylan Axelrod, RHP

3:59 p.m.: The Red Sox are getting their closer back.

Andrew Bailey was activated from the 15-day disabled list this afternoon. Righty Jose De La Torre was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket to make room on the 25-man roster.

Bailey is 1-0 on the season with five saves and a 1.46 ERA. He has 20 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings.

De La Torre made two appearances in relief for the Red Sox. He allowed two earned runs in two innings and recorded two strikeouts. — DK

3 p.m. ET: A little road swing through Tampa, Minnesota and Chicago appears to be just what the doctor ordered for the stumbling Red Sox, who have bagged five wins in a row so far.

Tonight, the Red Sox (27-17) open a three-game series on the South Side of Chicago, where they’ll visit the White Sox (19-23). Boston is looking to keep the wins rolling and also put some runs behind Jon Lester (6-0, 2.72 ERA), who has a chance to become the club’s first left-hander in 40 years to go 7-0 (Roger Moret did it in 1973 en route to a 10-0 start).

Lester has been lights-out lately, and he’ll likely be a handful for the White Sox, who sent righty Dylan Axelrod (1-3, 4.27) to the hill.

Check back here for updates and analysis before the game, then be sure to flip to NESN around 7 p.m. for pregame action. First pitch is going at 8:10 p.m.

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