Smile, smile, handshakes all around.
On Monday night, Kevin Youkilis hit one far enough, but he just didn't hit it high enough. The Green Monster turned a homer into a double, Youkilis didn't come around to score, and the White Sox were deprived of their last best chance to take the lead.
This time, Youkilis readjusted for the 37-foot wall when he turned on a 3-2 cookie from Jon Lester. It resulted in a three-run homer, giving the White Sox a four-run lead and Phil Humber a nice cushion during his first start since June 16.
Humber held up his end of the bargain by emulating Dylan Axelrod's performance from the night before. When the White Sox gave him a quick lead with two first-inning runs, he gave them right back. But he shook off the rough start to hold the Red Sox scoreless over his next five.
Really, Boston's running game hurt him more than his pitches did. Humber gave up a leadoff single to Jacoby Ellsbury, who stole second and came around to score on Carl Crawford's single. Then Crawford stole second and scored on Adrian Gonzalez's single.
Humber kept the bases mostly clear after the first -- no walks certainly helps.
He clearly outpitched Jon Lester, who only lasted four innings. Paul Konerko, a longtime nemesis of Lester's (9-for-21, three homers), brought out his opposite-field swing and used it to great effect tonight. He shot a double down the first-base line to give the Sox a 1-0 lead, and Alex Rios followed with an RBI single himself to make it 2-0.
After Boston tied it in the bottom of the first, Alejandro De Aza followed Konerko's lead in the second inning with his own opposite-field RBI double.
Two innings later, Youkilis came through with his big blast. He benefited from some curious decision-making by Lester. He fell behind Youkilis 3-0, and with Adam Dunn on deck, it looked like he might be pitching around Youkilis to set up a lefty-lefty matchup with the bases loaded. But he came back with two strikes to make it a full count, and he tried to steal one more. Youkilis would have none of it.
De Aza added an RBI single to right in the sixth, which turned out to be some key insurance when Matt Thornton -- not used in a tie game on Monday, but with a five-run lead tonight, sure -- gave up three runs in the eighth, including two on a pinch-hit home run by Kelly Shoppach. That cut the lead to 7-5, but neither Thornton nor Addison Reed allowed the tying to reach base.
The Sox also saw a couple of great scoring opportunities thwarted. They shot themselves in the foot in the first inning when, with runners on the corners and one out, A.J. Pierzynski struck out and Rios was thrown out to end the the threat. In the third, A.J. Pierzynski appeared to have an RBI single, but an amazing diving stab-and-throw by Mike Aviles saved a run, and caused Pierzynski to spike his helmet after crossing first.
- The White Sox were aggressive on the basepaths against Jarrod Saltalamacchia, stealing three bases in five attempts.
- One of the successful thieves? Adam Dunn, who stole second base uncontested when he noticed neither Lester nor Adrian Gonzales were paying him any attention.
- Dayan Viciedo saved a run himself with a diving catch on a slicing Daniel Nava liner.
- Alex Rios committed an inexplicable error when trying to field Adrian Gonzalez's single. He just didn't look it into the mitt, and the ball hopped off his glove and rolled behind him. But then he ended the game with a fine running catch on Ellsbury's drive to the right-center gap, so all is forgiven.