Jon Lester rode a seven-game winning streak into his Memorial Day start against the White Sox, but it was clear from the beginning that the guy who hadn't lost since April 12 was nowhere to be seen.
Finally, the White Sox were able to take advantage of a pitcher who was off his game. A special thanks goes to Terry Francona, who ensured that the Sox would be able to get to Lester by leaving him in an unusually long time.
The Soxes were tied at 3 in the sixth, and Lester had to work hard throughout the night. Had the Sox not given away two of the three outs in the fourth inning -- Brent Morel popped up a 2-0 bunt after two straight walks, and then the Sox ran into a strike-him-out-throw-him-out -- they could have ended his day earlier.
Nevertheless, Lester started the sixth with a pitch count of 96. Over the course of 16 pitches, he allowed two singles sandwiching a popout. Given that he was at a tough 112 pitches, any time from here on out would have been a good time to pull him.
He didn't leave after striking out Brent Morel for the second out of the inning. He didn't leave after walking Juan Pierre on four pitches to load the bases (his fourth walk of the night, along with two Carlos Quentin HBPs).
Alexei Ramirez made them pay. On a 2-2 pitch -- Lester's 127th of the evening -- Ramirez fought off an inside-half fastball and dropped it into short right field for a two-run double, giving the White Sox a 5-3 lead. Finally, Francona pulled Lester in favor of Dan Wheeler, and Wheeler gave up a single to Quentin to tag seven runs to Lester.
Prior to that point, Jake Peavy had allowed Boston to score after the White Sox did. When A.J. Pierzynski gave Peavy a quick 2-0 lead with a bases-loaded single up the middle, Peavy gave up a solo shot to Adrian Gonzalez. When Paul Konerko answered Gonzalez with his own blast in the third, Peavy allowed a two-run single to Dustin Pedroia to tie the game.
This time, Peavy let the four-run attack go unanswered. He did allow singles to Gonzalez and David Ortiz, but Carl Crawford's screaming liner landed in Brent Lillibridge's glove, and he struck out Drew Sutton to end the threat. He went on to throw an easy seventh before Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton handled the final two innings.
That inning summed up Peavy's night. He struggled to contain Boston's best hitters (the top five in the order went 7-for-19 with three RBI), but the last four hitters went 0-for-14. Peavy didn't walk a batter (he did plunk one), and he basically made sure that the players who weren't supposed to beat him couldn't do so. So the start was a success, and he picked up his second victory to show for it.
*The biggest sign of Lester's problems: He issued Morel's first walk of the season, after Morel failed to draw one in any of his first 117 plate appearances of the season. It was on four pitches.
*Crain was nailed in the hip by a liner off the bat of Gonzalez, but he rebounded to get the out at first.