Red Sox-White Sox Preview
By TAYLOR BECHTOLD
(AP) -- Aside from a late scoring outburst by the Boston Red Sox with an infielder on the mound, runs have been hard to come by in the first two games with the Chicago White Sox.
That's not likely to change with a pair of tough left-handers taking the hill in the series finale at U.S. Cellular Field.
Chris Sale looks to lead the White Sox to their fifth victory in seven games Thursday night, while Jon Lester will try to help the Red Sox win two in a row for the first time since their opening series.
Boston (6-9) tied the game at three on Grady Sizemore's sacrifice fly in the ninth inning Wednesday before breaking through with two runs in the 14th when the White Sox (8-7) ran out of relievers.
Jackie Bradley Jr. provided the key drive with a two-run double off second baseman-turned-pitcher Leury Garcia as Boston snapped a three-game skid with a marathon 6-4 win.
The Red Sox and White Sox have combined for just 13 runs over 23 innings while splitting the first two of the three-game set. With only six hits in the 14 innings, Boston's batting average dropped to .172 over its last seven games.
Since hitting .303 with 7.5 runs per game in its previous six, Chicago has batted .181 while scoring six times in the series.
Although Sale's 3.19 run-support average was third-worst among qualifying pitchers in 2013, he's received five runs in each of his outings en route to his first 3-0 start since joining the rotation in 2012.
Sale (3-0, 2.66 ERA) picked up another win Friday despite not having his best stuff, surrendering three runs and six hits while throwing 105 pitches over five innings in a 9-6 home win over Cleveland.
"Fastball command was not nearly where I wanted it to be, breaking ball was not really sharp, couldn't really command that," Sale told the team's official website. "It was a combination of a lot of things, not finding a rhythm, not getting into a groove and really doing what I'm supposed to do."
Sale might not have to deal with Boston slugger Mike Napoli, whose status is uncertain after he dislocated his left ring finger in a 2-1 loss in the series opener.
Following a two-start absence due to a wrist injury, Dustin Pedroia went 2 for 6 and scored three runs Wednesday after going 3 for 27 in his previous six.
Though he received one run of support while taking the loss in his first two outings, the Red Sox scored four for Lester (1-2, 2.57) in a 4-2 win at Yankee Stadium on Friday. The southpaw allowed two runs and six hits while throwing 113 pitches over 6 2-3 innings.
"I don't feel like I threw the ball as well the first two, but sometimes you need games like this to appreciate the ones where you glide through," Lester said. "This was a little bit of a grinder."
Lester has had to grind through four of his last six starts against the White Sox, going 2-4 with a 7.27 ERA while allowing seven home runs. Paul Konerko has gone 10 for 25 with three homers and Dayan Viciedo is 5 for 11 with a home run in the matchup.
Konerko is expected to make his first home start Thursday, while Alexei Ramirez looks to break Frank Thomas' 18-year-old club record by hitting safely in 16 straight games to start a season.
Updated April 17, 2014