The Red Sox have reached .500 on the season after shutting out the White Sox 1-0 behind a dominant Jon Lester.
The first inning did not promise great things for the Red Sox' southpaw, as he was forced to throw 30 pitches and seemed on the verge of falling apart before stranding two baserunners with an Alex Rios fly ball.
From there, however, Lester was dominant. Retiring the next seven batters he faced, and 14-of-16, Lester recorded one out in the seventh without any significant trouble. That's when things got difficult, and not through much fault of Lester's own.
Two infield singles put a runner in scoring position with Lester's pitch count up around 120 and two outs to go. Lester would manage to get a ground ball from Brent Morel, and while the double play was broken up at second, Gordon Beckham was obliging enough to provide another ground ball for the third out. Lester would end the night with seven innings of shutout baseball on five hits, one walk, and seven strikeouts--a much-needed tremendous outing for the ace.
Jake Peavy, meanwhile, was matching Lester pitch for pitch, looking every bit the ace he had been at San Diego. While Lester was able to dodge damage throughout, however, Peavy was just unlucky enough to have events conspire in the fourth inning to cost him a run. Ryan Sweeney led things off with a pop-up, but had it placed perfectly, running into second as the ball fell into right field for a double.
Had Peavy pitched the rest of the inning like he pitched the rest of the game, however, he would have likely been able to avoid damage. But as it would happen, he would run into Adrian Gonzalez, and leave a fastball up in the zone for him. With a nearly shoulder-high swing, Gonzalez was able to hit a hard ground ball back up the middle for the RBI single.
While one-run leads have been a challenge to keep for the Red Sox' pen, they managed to do the job tonight. Franklin Morales recorded the first two outs of the eighth, and while the next two batters would reach against him and his replacement Vicente Padilla, the latter would manage to get the third out, setting up Alfredo Aceves for a clean, game-ending ninth.
.500: After a start of 1-5 and later 4-10, the Red Sox have now come all the way back to even their record out at 10-10. This comes 20 games earlier than last year's team, which only managed to pull to .500 at 20-20. Ther's still a lot of season to go, but for the next 20 games, any wins they can grab over .500 are just upside.
Farewell, April: Jon Lester's slow starts are almost the thing of legend at this point, and on a cold, windy April night in Chicago it could well have been more of the same for the Sox' lefty ace. In fact, after the first three outs, Sox fans could not have been expecting much at all. But with his last start of the month, Lester turned in a masterpiece, allowing the White Sox next to nothing. With Lester often one of the best in the game in the warmer months, the Sox have plenty of reason to expect the upward trend to continue.
Shutout: It's the first of the season for the Red Sox, who didn't seem likely to pull one off all year without a complete game from Beckett or Lester a few weeks ago. The pen is still scary to watch, but at least now it's becoming even just possible to win these close games with a couple of innings from the relievers. A step up.