CHICAGO (AP) — There’s a season-long trend that makes Jon Lester happy and helps make his job easier: the Boston Red Sox crank up their offense when he pitches.
Lester pitched eight strong innings Saturday night and the Red Sox used two big innings, homers from Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis, and three RBIs from Marco Scutaro to beat the Chicago White Sox 10-2.
“These guys, there aren’t going to be too many games where they’re held down. It’s fun to watch. We get kind of spoiled pitching behind those guys,” said Lester, who entered the game with an average run support of seven this season. “They swing the bats great, play good defense — it was a good game all around for us.”
Lester was efficient, had a low pitch count for most of the night — he finished with 97 — and had command of the game in just his second outing since coming off the disabled list with a latissimus strain.
He also helped the Red Sox end a seven-game losing streak against the White Sox.
“It was obviously good. Pitch count was down against an aggressive team,” Lester said, crediting catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia for calling a good game.
“Salty did a great job back there, mixing off-speed pitches both ahead and behind in the count. For the most part, I was able to keep my fastball down. It’s always good to keep the fastball down and get bad contact.”
Lester (11-4) allowed two runs and four hits with a walk and eight strikeouts to get his first victory since June 30. He lost the shutout in the seventh when Paul Konerko hit his 25th homer, and he also gave up a solo shot to Gordon Beckham in the eighth.
Boston put it away with five runs in the ninth. The Red Sox finished with 15 hits.
Gonzalez, who missed Friday night’s game with a stiff neck, hit his 18th homer in the ninth, a two-run shot off reliever Brian Bruney. His first homer since July 7 gave him 89 RBIs this season.
Youkilis then followed with his 15th homer to push the lead to six. Saltalamacchia added an RBI double and Scutaro a run-scoring single.
Boston broke a scoreless tie in the fifth with four runs against Phil Humber (8-7) as Carl Crawford singled, stole second and reached third on catcher A.J. Pierzynski’s throwing error. Saltalamacchia hit an RBI double, moved to third on a bunt single by Josh Reddick and scored on Scutaro’s sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead.
Jacoby Ellsbury followed with a single and stole second, putting runners at second and third before Dustin Pedroia hit another sacrifice fly for a three-run cushion. After Gonzalez was walked intentionally, Youkilis hit a broken-bat liner that went off third baseman Brent Morel’s glove for an RBI single that ended Humber’s night.
Scutaro added an RBI single to right center in the eighth as Reddick scored all the way from first when Beckham couldn’t handle a late throw from center fielder Alex Rios. Rios, who has struggled all season, was booed loudly after the play.
“We have a knack for doing that (scoring in bunches). We didn’t do a whole lot early,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “We still worked the count, and once we got the opportunity, we kept the line moving. We just kept going. Reddick’s baserunning was tremendous.”
Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said Rios just didn’t make a good throw on the play.
“Bad thing about that play is bad throw to second base. He make a bad throw to second. That’s why he scores. He throws the ball right, there is going to be a play at the plate,” Guillen said.
But it was the White Sox offense that had the most trouble against Lester. Chicago had scored seven runs and drew five walks off the lefty in just 5 2-3 innings when they faced him at Fenway Park in late May, winning the game 7-3.
“Today he was around the plate. Last time we faced him in Boston he was all over the place. His command was wild,” Guillen said. “Today he threw a lot of strikes.”
Humber, who was Chicago’s most consistent starter in the first half of the season, hadn’t pitched since July 17. He’d been assigned temporarily to the bullpen after a rainout forced the White Sox to rearrange their rotation and to give him some rest. He didn’t see any work as a reliever, and now has lost his last three starts, giving up 24 hits and 14 earned runs in 14 innings.
Humber surrendered six hits and the four runs in 4 2-3 innings, but said he didn’t feel rusty after not pitching for 13 days. He looked at the tape of the fifth inning.
“A few infield hits there. Just couldn’t work out of it,” he said. “Overall I was pretty pleased with how I threw the ball. Was hoping for a different result. … I felt like I was pretty sharp. Like I said, I felt like I threw the ball pretty well.”
Notes: White Sox general manager Ken Williams said it’s unlikely the team will be making any more trades before Sunday’s deadline. … The Red Sox announced they had signed catcher Jordan Weems, a third-round draft pick this year, and also third baseman Nick Moore, who was selected in the 30th round. … Konerko’s homer was the 390th of his career. It ties him with Graig Nettles for 53rd place on the all-time list. … Mike Aviles, acquired earlier in the day from Kansas City, played third for the Red Sox in the bottom of the ninth. … Reliever Jason Frasor made his White Sox debut by pitching two-thirds of an inning. He was acquired in a trade with Toronto on Wednesday.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)