The White Sox's ultimately favorable home-heavy schedule started with a tough opponent and a tougher pitching matchup. Thanks to an uncharacteristic never-say-die offense, the preferred Sox put together the kind of effort that fans would want to see in person over the next month.
Boston lefty Jon Lester suffered his first loss in seven decisions, as the White Sox tagged him for six runs over six innings, and all of them scoring with two outs.
Adam Dunn struck the biggest blow in the first, following Alex Rios' single and Paul Konerko's walk with a rocket homer onto the patio in right for a quick 3-0 lead. They stretched it to five in the second, as Tyler Greene, Alejandro De Aza and Alexei Ramirez strung together opposite-field doubles after Lester retired the first two he faced.
But while Viciedo's RBI single in the fifth inning was the least wow-worthy of the run-scoring hits in terms of force, the context makes it mighty impresive. With runners on the corners and two outs, Viciedo battled Lester to a full count, then bounced the ninth pitch over Lester and into center for an RBI single. It was especially important because he picked up Konerko, who almost killed the threat with a weak 4-6-3 double play after the first two runners reached.
Ultimately, Lester - now 6-1 with a 3.15 ERA -- was no match for Dylan Axelrod, who once again gave Robin Ventura what he needed by throwing six strong innings for his second win of the season. He allowed just five baserunners and one walk, although the free pass did come around to score when Jarrod Saltalamacchia followed it with a two-run homer off the top of the wall in left-center.
That narrowed the White Sox's lead to 5-2 heading into the bottom of the third, but Axelrod took the punch well. He allowed just three singles over the last three innings, and two of them were erased by double plays. The last was an infield single by Shane Victorino that kept the sixth inning alive, but Dustin Pedroia's fly to deep center landed in Alejandro De Aza's glove on the warning track.
Ventura didn't even let Axelrod get into serious trouble, ending his night after six innings and 83 pitches and calling on Matt Thornton to start a 7-8-9 bullpen combination he hasn't had much of a chance to deploy.
So, of course, Thornton walked the first two batters, both of whom came around to score on Will Middlebrooks' double. A good left fielder probably would've been able to get back to the wall in time, but it was a high degree-of-difficulty play for Viciedo. That narrowed the gap to 6-4, but Thornton would escape the jam by getting Saltalamacchia to fly out to the track in left center.
That was the second scary fly off the bat, but it wouldn't be the last. After Jesse Crain pitched around a one-out walk for a scoreless eighth, Addison Reed entered to close it out. Mike Napoli greeted him with a single, and after a strikeout, Middlebrooks almost had two more RBI. He took a close two-strike slider to stay alive, then put a good swing on a fastball and sent it high in the air to center. De Aza was there in front of the 400 sign again for the second out. A diving stop and flip by Konerko, and the White Sox stopped their two-game skid.
- Besides the game-ending play, Konerko started and finished a nifty 3-6-3 on Ortiz, so while his bat is still missing, he did make a couple big plays with his glove.
- Ramirez also turned a tough 4-6-3 on speedy Jacoby Ellsbury, and after a bad feed by Greene. He also made a tough play in self-defense, gloving a Napoli laser-hop while falling back, and recovering for the out.
- Viciedo's average is at .301 with a .362 OBP after going 2-for-3 with a walk. He saw 21 pitches in his four trips to the plate.
- Rios extended his hitting streak to 15 games, and Crain has thrown 17 scoreless outings in a row.
- Lester is now 4-5 with a 5.43 ERA against the White Sox, and 87-43 with a 3.63 ERA against everybody else.