CHICAGO — Anytime David Ross gets to be behind the plate for one of Jon Lester’s starts, the catcher has total confidence that the left-hander will put the Boston Red Sox in a position to win.
Lester certainly did not disappoint Thursday against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. However, it was his batterymate who came through in the clutch.
Ross drove in the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning, and Lester allowed only one run in eight innings to lead the Red Sox to a 3-1 win.
Ross’ double off White Sox reliever Ronald Belisario (1-2) scored Mike Napoli, who singled and advanced to second on pinch hitter Mike Carp’s single. The Red Sox (7-9) added another run on pinch hitter Jonathan Herrera’s RBI bunt single.
Lester (2-2) took a perfect game into the sixth inning. He wound up allowing one run on seven hits and no walks in eight innings. He struck out a season-high nine.
Boston closer Koji Uehara made his first appearance since April 9 and earned his third save in as many chances with a scoreless ninth inning. He returned to action after recovering from shoulder stiffness.
Ross left Lester alone on the bench as the zeros continued to go up on the scoreboard, adding that a 5-year-old could have caught Lester against the White Sox.
“I don’t know how to take that,” Lester said with a smile.
Lester was well aware he was pitching a perfect game while White Sox starter Chris Sale was pitching a no-hitter into the sixth.
“It was a fun night to pitch,” Lester said. “If you don’t like that pitching, then you don’t like baseball. That was a lot of fun to be a part of.
“I think guys who say they don’t know what’s going on until the ninth inning (of a no-hitter), I think they’re lying. I think we both knew what was going on and the circumstances.”
Xander Bogaerts ended Sale’s no-hit bid with two outs in the sixth. The Red Sox shortstop hit a 1-0 fastball from Sale for a solo home run to left field for the Boston’s first hit and a 1-0 lead. It was Bogaerts’ first home run of the season.
Catcher Tyler Flowers broke up Lester’s perfect game with one out in the bottom of the sixth, hitting a single just out of the Bogaerts’ range. Second baseman Leury Garcia followed with a ground-rule double to right field, putting runners on second and third.
Center fielder Adam Eaton came through with an infield single, scoring Flowers to tie the game at 1. Lester prevented further damage by striking out third baseman Marcus Semien looking and getting right fielder Dayan Viciedo to fly out to right field.
“I think he’s pitched at an effort level in his delivery and he’s established a very good rhythm right from the start of each ballgame that he’s pitched,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said of Lester. “He’s been able to command his fastball on both sides of the plate. That’s such an advantage for a pitcher.”
Sale gave the White Sox (8-8) every opportunity to pick up the win. He allowed only one hit in seven innings and struck out 10. It was the 11th double-digit strikeout performance of Sale’s career, tying Billy Pierce for the fifth most in White Sox history. Pierce needed 390 starts to reach that mark, while Sale got there in his 63rd start.
Walks nearly caused trouble for Sale in the seventh. Sale issued a free pass to Napoli to start the inning, and one out later, he walked Ross. Sale kept the game tied, however, by forcing right fielder Daniel Nava to fly out and striking out third baseman Ryan Roberts.
Sale threw a career-high 127 pitches.
“That atmosphere tonight it was great,” Sale said. “Obviously knowing who you got across the way, runs are going to be scarce. Going out there and giving everything you got, a team rolls in like this, you can’t really have any consternation with that. You can’t shy away from that.”
The White Sox nearly broke the 1-1 tie in the seventh. However, designated hitter Adam Dunn, who singled to start the inning, was thrown out at home on Alejandro De Aza’s double with a great relay by the Red Sox to end the inning.
Eaton robbed Boston designated hitter David Ortiz of a home run in the first inning. Eaton perfectly timed his leap and stretched his glove over the wall to make the catch to end the inning, earning a first pump from Sale on the mound.
“When Sale gets his best stuff up there, we should do the same, and that’s bring good defense every day,” Eaton said. “I was fortunate enough the ball was only a few inches over the fence and try to put a good effort out there and made a good catch.”
With a two-out single in the ninth, shortstop Alexei Ramirez extended his hitting streak to 16 games, passing Frank Thomas for the longest season-opening hitting streak in White Sox history.
Napoli, Boston’s first baseman, returned the lineup after missing one game because of a dislocated left ring finger. He suffered the injury sliding head-first into second base during the ninth inning of Tuesday’s game.