CHICAGO - Jed Lowrie immediately thought he would be able to tag out A.J. Pierzynski. The catcher's line-drive single had gone to right field, the ball was grabbed by J.D. Drew, thrown to Dustin Pedroia, and relayed to Lowrie. Lowrie thought he was close enough, that it wouldn't be a problem. It was.
Orlando Cabrera, who had gone to third on the single, headed home once the ball left Pedroia's hand. It was, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said, just like a first-and-third steal. And the runner heading home should be always the focus in that situation.
"My initial reaction was, right when [Pedroia] threw it to me, was to go get him and try and tag him before Cabrera scored," Lowrie said. "He was further away than I thought. I didn't even think to look home because I thought I was going to get him on the tag. It's just a play that I made a bad read on, and I cost us a run."
Though the Red Sox were already down by three runs as the White Sox batted in the bottom of the seventh, it looked much bigger minutes later. Because with the Red Sox relieved of having to face Mark Buehrle one batter into the top of the eighth, Pedroia brought Boston right back with a three-run homer into the Chicago bullpen.
The difference was one run. The run scored by Cabrera.
In the end, it was a 5-3 loss for the Red Sox in front of a sellout crowd of 38,621 at U.S. Cellular Field, ending a run of seven straight wins over the White Sox. It was also a virtuoso performance from Buehrle, a pitcher who had allowed 13 runs (12 earned) on 22 hits over his last 9 1/3 innings.
"He was great tonight," Pedroia said. "He was attacking the zone with like nine pitches, it seemed like."
Though the Red Sox had scored eight runs in each of their last two games, the lefthander shut them down early. It took until Coco Crisp (who entered 12 for 32, .375, off Buehrle), the Red Sox No. 9 batter, before they mustered a hit. And after that one, a double that could have been a triple had Crisp not slowed between first and second, it took another five batters for Boston to get on base again. The Red Sox managed just four hits off Buehrle in his seven innings. He gave up just one run (inherited by Octavio Dotel, when Pedroia homered) and struck out eight.
"He didn't struggle tonight," Francona said. "He used every pitch and he worked quick and he changed speeds. That was pitching - in, out, up, down, changed speeds, 3-2 changeup. He pitched well."
Francona's pitcher wasn't bad either, as Jon Lester allowed four runs on six hits in seven innings. But the Red Sox' scoring ended with Pedroia's home run. Carlos Quentin led off the bottom of the eighth with a 389-foot home run off Manny Delcarmen, which ended a run of 18 consecutive scoreless innings over six games for the Red Sox' bullpen.
Lester had been dominant of late, an ace without a title. Before last night, he had given up just nine runs over his last five starts, going at least seven innings in each. He had won seven straight decisions, and had lost just three times this season. Oh, and after losing two of his first three starts, he had been defeated just once since April 9.
"You're in the big leagues," he said. "That's not going to happen too often."
Last night, he gave up a run on a third-inning sacrifice fly, two more on a double to right field by Cabrera in the fifth, and took the loss.
Lester wasn't particularly frustrated after the game, but that's more than can be said for Mike Lowell. The third baseman, who went hitless again, tossed his bat after popping out into foul territory with Kevin Youkilis on first base in the eighth. Lowell thought the ball might wind up 15 rows into the stands, giving him another chance, another opportunity to get back to feeling like himself at the plate. It didn't.
It was Lowell's fourth at-bat, none ending with him reaching base. Another 0-fer. Like the game before, and the game before that. That makes 15 straight at-bats for Lowell without a hit. Over the last 18 games, Lowell is batting .171 (13 for 76).
"There's no consistency," Lowell said. "I'm searching for it. I'll go back at it tomorrow, see what we can do. Trust me, I want it a lot more than you."
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com.