Lester looks strong, Red Sox pile on
CHICAGO - On a night when team executives were trying to obtain a starting pitcher, Jon Lester proved again that the Red Sox are very formidable at the top of the rotation.
The big lefthander pitched eight strong innings as the Red Sox took out some lingering frustrations on the White Sox with a 10-2 victory.
Lester (11-4) allowed four hits, walked one, and struck out eight as the Red Sox snapped a seven-game losing streak against the White Sox that dated to last season.
The White Sox have given Lester trouble over the years. He came into the game 2-3 with a 5.94 earned run average in six career starts against Chicago. That included a poor start May 30 when he allowed seven runs and couldn’t get out of the sixth inning.
But Lester shut down Chicago last night. He had excellent velocity on his fastball and kept it low in the strike zone while varying his off-speed pitches. That left the White Sox unable to string hits together.
Chicago got solo home runs from Paul Konerko and Gordon Beckham. Beyond that, they advanced only one runner beyond first base against Lester.
“I was able to locate to both sides of the plate,’’ Lester said. “I did a good job of mixing my off-speed pitches both behind and ahead in the count. I was able for the most part to keep them off balance and try and get bad contact. That was the biggest thing.’’
Lester has made two starts since a 19-day stint on the disabled list with a strained lat muscle on his left side. He has allowed three earned runs over 13 1/3 innings with three walks and 14 strikeouts, allaying any concerns about his health.
“He looks great to me, as good as ever,’’ catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “That’s what we need.’’
Lester retired the side in order in the fifth and sixth innings and took a two-hit shutout into the seventh having thrown only 64 pitches. Lester got the first out of the inning, but Konerko lined a fastball into the bleachers in left-center.
Adrian Gonzalez, who missed Friday’s game with a stiff neck, was back in the Red Sox’ lineup and went 3 for 4 with a walk and a two-run home run in the ninth inning.
It was the first homer for Gonzalez in 72 at-bats dating to July 7. He has 18 on the season to go with 89 RBIs.
Kevin Youkilis followed Gonzalez’s shot to right field with one to left field, his 15th homer of the season. Both Sox home runs came off reliever Brian Bruney.
Carl Crawford then singled and scored on a double by Saltalamacchia, who drove in two runs. Marco Scutaro, who drove in three runs, added an RBI single.
A night after they were held to one run on three hits, the Sox had 15 hits off Phil Humber (8-7) and four relievers.
The bottom four hitters in the order - Crawford, Saltalamacchia, Josh Reddick, and Scutaro - were 7 for 16 with six runs and five RBIs.
Mike Aviles, who had been obtained from Kansas City earlier in the day, made his Red Sox debut, playing third base in the bottom of the ninth.
Humber had faced the Red Sox once in his career, giving up four runs over 7 2/3 innings at Fenway Park May 31. He gave up four runs again, all in the fifth inning, before he was pulled.
Humber took a one-hit shutout into the fifth before the Red Sox worked him over. It started when Crawford grounded a single into right field, stole second, and scored on a double by Saltalamacchia.
Reddick followed with a bunt single that pushed Saltalamacchia to third base. Scutaro delivered a sacrifice fly to right field to make it 2-0.
Jacoby Ellsbury, who had struck out looking in his two previous times up, singled to right field. That drove Reddick to third base and he scored on a sacrifice fly by Dustin Pedroia.
Chicago intentionally walked Gonzalez to get to Youkilis. That did not work out as Youkilis dropped a single into shallow left field. That scored Ellsbury and made it 4-0.
Saltalamacchia has hit safely in eight straight games, going 12 for 33 (.364) with 10 RBIs. The catcher has become a solid contributor to the lineup a year after being obtained from Texas.
“He’s really progressed,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “He’s getting comfortable, he’s gaining experience. The catching part of the game isn’t consuming him because he’s comfortable with that. He’s taking some pretty good swings.’’
Reddick walked in the eighth inning and scored from first on a single by Scutaro. He was running on the play and never let up.
“Red giving the effort, that was an exciting play,’’ Francona said.