Final, 7-5 White Sox: If anyone could be expected to save the Red Sox in this one, it had to be Jacoby Ellsbury. He and Carl Crawford have been the key for Boston all night, and when Mike Aviles and Pedro Ciriaco went down weakly, it was up to Ellsbury to make something happen with two outs.
Ellsbury connected well, lifting a long fly, but the White Sox outfield closed in just in time to rob him of another hit, wrapping up the game for Chicago.
The Red Sox pitching got clobbered tonight, but the offense showed great signs of life. Boston hasn't had much of a running game all year, but the equation instantly changes with Ellsbury and Crawford in the mix. And Bobby Valentine has to love having the choices he has in the outfield, and the pinch-hitting options he drew on to swing this game around.
It's going to be a tough stretch ahead with David Ortiz out, but the Red Sox are showing signs of being the team that many expected they could be. Tonight, they'll have to tip their caps to Kevin Youkilis and a stellar White Sox effort, as Chicago just really came out better on every level.
But tomorrow is a different day. Both sides are back at Fenway Park, with the action starting at 6 p.m. on NESN on Red Sox First Pitch. Check in as we keep you up to date on what is turning into a great series.
Mid 9th, 7-5 White Sox: Morales es mowin'.
The Red Sox needed a quick inning to keep the momentum going and steal this one from the White Sox, and they got it from Franklin Morales. He cleaned out Alejandro De Aza on five pitches.
Kevin Youkilis, possibly hearing "boo" mixed in with "Yoooouk," grounded out, and Adam Dunn failed to make a move toward first on a bouncer down the line that Adrian Gonzalez turned into out No. 3.
Remember when I said the 7-8-9 hitters needed to come through for the Sox? Yeah, that would be now. Addison Reed is coming in to pitch for the White Sox.
End 8th, 7-5 White Sox: After several innings of shoulder-shrugging ball, that was one furious rally from the Beantown Bombers.
While manager Bobby Valentine's timely substitutions certainly had something to do with it, it started again with one of the lineup's newest additions.
Carl Crawford had some real fire leading off. All that time resting the elbow sure got his legs in shape. He absolutely flew down the line to beat out an infield single, giving himself a 3-for-4 day.
It all paid off, too — after Adrian Gonzalez moved Crawford to second on a groundout, Crawford was frisky on the bases, jogging into third when the ChiSox weren't paying attention.
Will Middlebrooks, who apparently reads the live blog in the dugout and responded to our request for a hit, came through with a sharp grounder down the first-base line. It sounded like Middlebrooks may have even cracked one of those vaunted black bats on the stroke, as there was a very chunky wooden sound on the hit.
Then Valentine started his swapping.
Kelly Shoppach came in to pinch hit for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who has really struggled with the strikeouts lately. He was 0-for-3 tonight with one whiff.
Bobby Valentine's move paid off — Shoppach ripped a 2-1 pitch over the Green Monster, pulling Boston within 7-5. Cody Ross also came in for Ryan Sweeney, but he popped out to end the inning.
Still, the Sox have pulled within two runs, and better yet, they've shown some life.
Franklin Morales was warming up in the bullpen during the inning, so he'll likely be in for Boston next. His move from the starting rotation had to be a downer, but there's at least one Red Sox coach who thinks he'll be back.
Mid 8th, 7-2 White Sox: Junichi Tazawa! Talk about a shutdown kid.
That was an 11-pitch inning, with another K to boot.
Meanwhile, Matt Thornton is coming in to pitch for the White Sox.
End 7th, 7-2 White Sox: Whew. The Red Sox just don't have the punch they started with.
Mike Aviles struck out, and Pedro Ciriaco and Jacoby Ellsbury both hit long fly balls. One looked like it had the length, but it was merely a warning-track blast to center field. It's getting early late out here.
9:35 p.m.: Brian Omogrosso is in to pitch for the White Sox.
Philip Humber looked bad in the first inning, but he was incredible for Chicago the rest of the way. He went six innings and didn't let Boston do a thing in the last five. With three strikeouts and no walks in his first start since returning from the disabled list, he has to feel encouraged by a long, productive outing.
Mid 7th, 7-2 White Sox: That's another quick inning for Junichi Tazawa, who has pitched three innings of one-run ball for Boston. He's also struck out three.
Now the Red Sox just have to get the bats going if they want to make this one interesting.
End 6th, 7-2 White Sox: Hey thanks, Alex Rios!
That's what they call a Little League error. Adrian Gonzalez punched a single to right field, but Rios decided to scoop it up with his arm swinging at his side, instead of blocking the ball with his body like any aspiring ballplayer should. One vibrant hop later, and the Red Sox had Gonzalez on second with no outs.
Will Middlebrooks grounded out next. I've got to admit, I'm a little disappointed in the third baseman's night at the plate. He's been doing great since coming back from a hamstring injury after the All-Star break, and today, he unfurled some brand-new black bats in the clubhouse. (They apparently come wrapped in plastic these days, like a lollipop.)
Middlebrooks has the white letters "WMD" etched in the end of each bat. He tells me that's so guys can tell whose bat is whose when they're grabbing them out of the rack, but I'm thinking he just likes to look at a moniker for "weapons of mass destruction" every time he heads to the plate. Otherwise, why not just put your jersey number on the end of a bat?
Thanks for educating those of us who aren't major leaguers, Will, but next time, use that awesome lumber to send Gonzo home, OK?
Mid 6th, 7-2 White Sox: The White Sox are just loading up on the ball tonight.
Alexei Ramirez doubled and scored, giving him a 2-for-3 night.
The good news is that Boston is doing a little better with that whole stolen base situation. A Jarrod Saltalamacchia-Pedro Ciriaco combo out wiped Alejandro De Aza off the bases with one out, setting up a Kevin Youkilis strikeout to finish the frame.
End 5th, 6-2 White Sox: Jacoby Ellsbury's stellar night is on pause, as he flied out to right, but Carl Crawford just keeps going.
Crawford beat out an infield single then nabbed second base. He's making a good case to keep batting high in the order, where his aggressive baserunning can set the plate for the Sox sluggers.
It's a different-looking Red Sox team out there tonight, for sure. Without David Ortiz and the other usual suspects hammering home runs, we're seeing a lot more of the speed-fueled, small-ball game that Boston can use if needed. And, as anyone who's seen Bobby Valentine manage knows, this could create some clever schemes for later in the season.
Mid 5th, 6-2 White Sox: Junichi Tazawa does one good for Boston, sending the White Sox batters down quickly. The Red Sox needed an inning like that.
8:42 p.m.: Junichi Tazawa has entered the game for Jon Lester, who leaves after four innings pitched, six earned runs and seven hits allowed.
End 4th, 6-2 White Sox: Ryan Sweeney, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Mike Aviles just went down in order.
A few were long fly balls that looked like they could do some damage, but the White Sox outfielders did their job.
Mid 4th, 6-2 White Sox: Welcome back, Kevin Youkilis.
Youkilis did his OPS battle with Jon Lester there, working his way to a 3-2 count with men on second and third. Then, in one very Kevin Youkilis swing, he ripped a fly that was an over-the-wall guarantee from the moment it touched his bat.
That bomb gives the White Sox quite the cushion, as the score now matches the huge edge they've had over Lester all night.
Wherein we examine how Lester cannot get his game on track recently:
Exhibit A: Lester has thrown 91 pitches to get through four innings. He's been laboring all night.
Exhibit B: Lester continues to give up runs in the first inning as of late. Against the Yankees (July 8): two runs in the first; against the A's (July 3): one run; against the Blue Jays (June 27): one run. This is a team-wide trend, but Lester has been at the forefront.
Exhibit C: Lester has allowed a bunch of hits a bunch of times this season. He's up to seven tonight to go with two games of 10 hits, one of nine hits, and four of eight hits.
Lester got his first mound conference this inning with one out, after allowing a Dayan Viciedo double and walking Gordon Beckham. Junichi Tazawa also started warming up in the bullpen. Then Youkilis hit that huge home run. Lester probably threw his last pitches in that frame.
Lester has been unstoppable at points in his career, but he's just missing something this season. On a night where the Boston and Chicago offenses look equally aggressive, he'll have to lean on the Sox hitters — and most likely now the bullpen — to help him out.
P.S. The Fenway Faithful are still giving Youk quite the fan treatment, even as he helps Chicago plant the dagger in this one early.
End 3rd, 3-2 White Sox: Jacoby Ellsbury is going to carry this team, dagnabit!
The fleet-footed fielder punched another solid hit through to start the inning, then turned on the jets to grab second base on a long fly ball to center by Carl Crawford. That's right — Ellsbury tagged up and took second, even with the guy catching the ball about as close as he could be for an outfielder-to-infield throw.
An Adrian Gonzalez flyout and Will Middlebrooks strikeout (looking) meant Jacoby was stranded on second, though. The way he was running that inning, a bunt may have scored him. Oh well.
Mid 3rd, 3-2 White Sox: When Adam Dunn is stealing bases off of you, you know you've got some problems.
This is the man who has two major skills in baseball: hitting home runs and striking out. Running is decidedly not one of them.
But running is just what he did after drawing a leadoff walk. Jon Lester has looked twitchy all night, but that's still a pretty remarkable move to allow. Dunn hasn't stolen a base since 2008.
(He's also the third player to steal his first base of the year tonight — but Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford are supposed to be stealing, and they spent the rest of the season on the DL.)
Lester can tip his hat to some great defense, though. Mike Aviles made quite the spear on a ball off the bat of A.J. Pierzynski, and the Sox escaped that inning without allowing a run.
End 2nd, 3-2 White Sox: One of the things the Red Sox have to love about their batting order with all of these players coming back from the disabled list is the flexibility.
At one point, Mike Aviles was the leadoff man. Now, he's doing just as much production from the No. 8 or 9 hole, depending on the given night. Pedro Ciriaco, who isn't ever going to dig in above the sixth spot in the lineup, keeps putting up three-hit nights (he's done so in four of his seven games with the Sox).
That was a quiet inning for Ciriaco and Aviles as well as Ryan Sweeney, who were retired in order. But this isn't a team where 7-8-9 always means going down 1-2-3.
Mid 2nd, 3-2 White Sox: Fear not, Red Sox Nation: Carl Crawford's arm has not fallen off.
Part of why Crawford was so slow to return this year was that he acquired a new elbow injury while on the disabled list. He says he'll need Tommy John surgery, but he and the Red Sox have decided to go ahead and try to play the rest of this season. (I thought maybe he should just take the rest of the year off, but I'll admit I was a little tired of the injury updates.)
The only catch is that Crawford needs to be careful how hard he throws. He's been told to try to hit the cutoff man rather than start gunning guys down at home. On that wall-ball by Alexei Ramirez, he did just that — flipping in a nice cutoff throw that shows he can still rip it without, er, ripping it (his UCL, that is).
Other than the first big test of Crawford's 'bow, though, the White Sox were in charge of that inning. Ramirez stole second uncontested, and Alejandro De Aza killed a ball down the third-base line to score him and put himself on second.
Jon Lester retired Dayan Viciedo, Gordon Beckham and Kevin Youkilis, but Chicago is back ahead.
End 1st, 2-2: Well, it's nice to see both Jon Lester and Philip Humber rendering my no-hitter discussions moot in the first inning. Thanks for the help, fellas.
But really, the main figure of the inning has to be Jacoby Ellsbury, who's just out there doing what everyone has hoped he would do ever since he hit the disabled list right after the season began.
Humber gave up a hit to the first batter he saw, Ellsbury, who showed the classic Ellsbury form in the leadoff spot with not only a nice hit up the middle but also a steal of second base — his first theft of the season. Pierzynski couldn't even get the ball from his glove to try to catch Ellsbury, who looked way ahead of the play the whole time.
Ellsbury then came around to score on a Carl Crawford liner over second. With both Ellsbury and Crawford experiencing long layoffs, seeing them jump back into games so quickly has to be a boost for both their confidence and team morale.
The clubhouse felt a whole lot lighter this afternoon, and tonight's team just looks aggressive out there.
Crawford also got into the stolen base act, beating a throw for his first of the season. Adrian Gonzalez got the Sox their other run with a single that scored Crawford.
Mid 1st, 2-0 White Sox: Kevin Youkilis got a big welcome at Fenway Park for the second night in a row, but Youkilis didn't share the sentiments with Jon Lester, taking a walk from his former teammate.
Youkilis has been a spark for the White Sox ever his trade from the Red Sox, and he showed more of that form in the first inning. His walk led to a big frame for the visitors.
Adam Dunn followed the Youkilis walk with a single, then Paul Konerko ripped a double. Alex Rios plated another run with a single.
Lester punched out both Alejandro De Aza and A.J. Pierzynski, then got the inning to end with a snag of Rios as he tried to steal second, but the White Sox were all over him for the most part.
The Red Sox were hoping to shake their first-inning woes at the All-Star break, and the last thing Lester wants is to get behind early. It's time for the Boston bats to pick him up.
6:58 p.m.: More big cheers for Kevin Youkilis tonight. ("You[k], You[k] got what I need….)
6:10 p.m.: Red Sox pitching coach Bob McClure has confirmed that Franklin Morales is headed to the bullpen, but McClure also said it's not the end of Morales' starting career.
5:25 p.m.: In case you missed it, David Ortiz has not landed on the disabled list yet, but it doesn't look like he's going to be playing too soon, either.
The Red Sox are waiting to see how he feels Wednesday, but Ortiz showed up today in a boot and said he thinks he's out at least a week.
4:45 p.m.: The Red Sox look like they'll be continuing their six-man rotation — but Franklin Morales won't be in it.
Morales is headed back to the bullpen, NESN.com Red Sox reporter Didier Morais reports.
That leaves Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, Aaron Cook and Daisuke Matsuzaka (coming off the disabled list) as the presumptive starters.
Morales was a savior to the rotation just a few weeks ago, swooping in when Beckett hit the disabled list. While he hit a hiccup against the Yankees, his five scoreless innings against the Rays last week showed what had made him so promising.
4:10 p.m.: David Ortiz is out, but it appears it won't be for long.
As anyone who's been watching the Red Sox' season even a little bit knows, that is great news for Boston. Ortiz has carried this team much of the way, and losing him for just a few days to a sore Achilles is far different than seeing another serious injury bite a Sox star.
3:55 p.m. We've got some lineups for you.
As expected, David Ortiz is out of the batting order after hurting his Achilles tendon last night.
We're also seeing some shuffling in the outfield. Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford are both back, with Ryan Sweeney taking the last outfield spot and Daniel Nava working as the designated hitter. That leaves Cody Ross as the odd man out.
If Ortiz is out for a bit, that could help Bobby Valentine with his always-reconfiguring lineup, especially with the contributions the Sox have been getting from all of their outfielders. Nava and Sweeney talked about their new roles and what they expect on Monday.
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Carl Crawford LF
Daniel Nava DH
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Will Middlebrooks 3B
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Ryan Sweeney RF
Mike Aviles SS
Pedro Ciriaco 2B
Jon Lester P
Alejandro De Aza CF
Kevin Youkilis 3B
Adam Dunn DH
Paul Konerko 1B
Alex Rios RF
A.J. Pierzynski C
Dayan Viciedo LF
Alexei Ramirez SS
Gordon Beckham 2B
Philip Humber P
8 a.m. ET: Monday night had plenty of drama for Red Sox fans.
Kevin Youkilis returned to Fenway Park in a White Sox uniform, Carl Crawford came back after eons on the disabled list and Jacoby Ellsbury made his home debut after joining the Sox after the All-Star break. And if that wasn't enough, Boston rode an eighth-inning, three-run bomb by Adrian Gonzalez to victory to take the 5-1 win.
But as good as Monday was, Tuesday promises to have just as much fun.
The two pitchers scheduled to take the mound, Jon Lester and Philip Humber, are part of the distinct class of Major League Baseball pitchers who have thrown no-hitters in their careers. Lester's was a moment to remember in 2008, while Humber's was a shot out of nowhere as he pitched a perfect game in his first complete game outing just this April. (Click here to see all the perfect game pitchers in MLB history.) Both would love a repeat performance Tuesday night, with the stakes high enough as the Red Sox (46-44) look to fight their way out of the American League East basement and the White Sox (49-40) plan to add to their division lead in the American League Central.
Humber will be facing the Red Sox for the second time this season — and both appearances against Boston have been in high-pressure situations. He first faced the Red Sox on April 26, five days after his perfect game against the Seattle Mariners, and quickly fell back to earth. He allowed nine earned runs over five innings in that meeting.
This time, Humber (3-4, 6.01 ERA) will be facing the Red Sox after coming back from the disabled list, where he's been recovering from an elbow injury since June 22. In his first major league start since being sidelined, he may not be hoping for perfection — he just needs a decent few innings.
Jon Lester (5-6, 4.49 ERA), meanwhile, is still working to recover the ace form that has made him so unstoppable in seasons past. He had a solid outing against the White Sox when he faced them on April 28, going seven innings to earn the victory in a 1-0 game. But while Lester has put together some great starts, working deep into games and racking up strikeouts, he's been more nerve-wracking than consistent this year. That could change Tuesday if he can keep the Chicago bats quiet until the Boston lineup can do some damage.
The Red Sox' batting order appears to be in the finest shape of the year. Ellsbury has had six hits in his 18 at-bats (.333) since coming off the disabled list after the All-Star break, and Crawford made good on his return to Fenway on Monday night with a hit, a walk and two runs scored. With Gonzalez's bat going, a surplus of outfielders and Pedro Ciriaco looking sharp at second base for Dustin Pedroia, the Sox have to have high hopes that this lineup can become as powerful in the park as it is on paper.
The one outlier heading into Tuesday's game will be the health of David Ortiz, who injured his Achilles tendon running the bases in the eighth inning on Monday and appeared pretty frustrated after the game. While manager Bobby Valentine said the slugger should be fine soon enough, it's likely he'll be out at least Tuesday and probably the rest of the series. Check back here for updates on his situation.
It looks like a night of intrigue for the Sox and the Sox. Can they top Monday's heroics?
Tune in to NESN at 6 p.m. for pregame coverage, with first pitch scheduled for 7:10. And, as always, follow the live blog for all of the latest news and analysis.