BOSTON — Jon Lester has made himself into one the best lefties in the game with the added benefit of a very deceptive, hard sinking pitch.
The problem is now he may be relying on it too much.
Lester struggled with his command for most of his shorter than usual night, allowing seven runs in 5 2-3 innings to halt his seven-game winning streak as the Boston Red Sox lost to the Chicago White Sox 7-3 on Monday night.
“He’s gotten into a little bit of a mode where his cutter is so good and he’s throwing a little too many of them,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “It’s been a progression over time.”
Lester, who throws a fastball in the mid 90s, has generally earned key outs by throwing a fastball that cuts down and in on right-handed batters at a speed a bit slower than his usual fastball.
On Monday, that’s the one pitch he thought he could depend on.
“That was the only pitch I could throw for strikes,” he said. “It was the only pitch I could control, so I had to use it. I don’t need to reinvent the wheel, I just need to figure things out.”
Alexei Ramirez and Carlos Quentin had the key hits for Chicago, each collecting two RBIs in a four-run sixth inning as the White Sox beat Boston for the fifth straight time in Fenway Park.
Ramirez’s hit was a flare that fell behind first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, breaking a 3-all tie.
“As much as we talk about (Lester) not commanding, it’s 3-3 with the bases loaded and we get a bloop that falls on the chalk,” Francona said.
Paul Konerko added a solo homer for the White Sox, who halted a three-game losing skid and won for the 11th time in their last 13 games against the Red Sox.
Chicago hadn’t beaten Boston five straight times in Fenway since winning five in a row in different series in 1982.
Gonzalez hit a solo homer for Boston, which lost its second straight but only its fourth in its last 17 games.
Jake Peavy (2-0), making just his fourth start after working back from season-ending right shoulder surgery last July, held Boston to three runs, six hits, striking out two and not walking anyone over seven innings on the eve of his 30th birthday.
Jesse Crain got two outs, but was hit on the side by Gonzalez’s hard grounder, and Matt Thornton recorded the final four outs.
With the score tied at 3 in the sixth, Chicago chased Lester (7-2) with four runs. Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham, back in the lineup after missing the previous two games after getting hit below the left eye with a relay throw, singled. Juan Pierre walked to load the bases before Ramirez’s bloop fell for a two-run double. Dan Wheeler relieved and Quentin singled in two more, making it 7-3.
Chicago had increased its lead to 3-1 in the third when Konerko homered off an advertisement above the Green Monster seats before Boston tied it with two runs in the bottom of the inning. It was his 376th career homer, tying him for 66th all-time with former White Sox and Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk, who was in Fenway Park and shown on the center field video board as a one of Boston’s legends.
Dustin Pedroia’s two-run single tied the game. The former AL MVP had been just 3 for 30 with three RBIs with runners in scoring position and less than two outs.
The White Sox had grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first. Ramirez singled and Quentin was hit by a pitch, the first of two times that Lester hit him in the game. After Konerko singled to load the bases, A.J. Pierzynski drove in a pair with a single up the middle.
Gonzalez homered into the White Sox bullpen to cut it to 2-1 in the bottom of the inning.
NOTES: Quentin entered the game with nine hit by pitches, leading the AL … White Sox DH/1B Adam Dunn, hitless in 38 at-bats against left-handed pitching this season, was taken out of the lineup against lefty Lester. But Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen was sticking by him. “I know he’s had a tough year,” Guillen said. “I hope he’s not thinking, ‘They paid me all this money.’ I talked to him in Toronto and told him don’t worry about it. As long as he’s healthy he’s going to be in the lineup.” Dunn signed a $56-million, 4-year contract as a free agent during the offseason. … Francona said RHP Bobby Jenks, who made his second rehab appearance with Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday, is expected to be activated off the 15-day DL Tuesday. He was sidelined with a right biceps strain. … Francona also said Red Sox LHP reliever Franklin Morales, acquired from Colorado on May 19, had an MRI Monday on his strained left forearm. … Guillen switched Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s starters. Gavin Floyd, who took the loss in relief of Saturday’s 14-inning game in Toronto, will now go in Wednesday’s series finale. Phil Humber was moved up to Tuesday.