When Kevin Youkilis highlighted the White Sox’ 7-5 victory over the Red Sox Tuesday night, clobbering a three-run homer off Jon Lester with two out in the fourth, the reaction of the Fenway Park crowd of 37,771 seemed puzzling.
No one was quite sure if the crowd was cheering Youkilis, chanting “Yoooouuk!’’ Or if they were actually booing Lester, deservedly so, after the Red Sox lefthander served up a 3-and-2 fastball that Youkilis launched into the Monster seats to give the White Sox a commanding 6-2 lead.
“It was a frustrating night for Jon,’’ said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine.
When Lester got out of the inning by striking out White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn, there was no mistaking the crowd’s frustration as he walked off the mound to a lusty chorus of boos.
It was a brutal indignation for Lester (5-7), who allowed six runs in four innings on seven hits and three walks while throwing 91 pitches in his first start since the All-Star break.
“Frustrating year,’’ Lester said. “Frustrating nights just keep adding on.’’
Lester’s 19th start of the season had another rocky beginning when he gave up a pair of runs in the first inning on three hits, marking the fourth consecutive game he has allowed at least one run in the first inning.
“After he gave up two in the first and we came back, I thought he’d be able to settle down and get us a victory,’’ Valentine said. “His control just wasn’t there.’’
After striking out Alejando De Aza, Youkilis drew a walk, advanced to second on Dunn’s single to right, and scored on Paul Konerko’s double to right.
Alex Rios ripped a single to center, scoring Dunn from third to make it 2-0, but the Sox got out of the inning when Lester fanned A.J. Pierzynski and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia doubled off Rios, who was gunned down attempting to steal second.
Despite playing without designated hitter David Ortiz, who is nursing an injured Achilles’ tendon suffered in Monday night’s 5-1 victory, the Red Sox rallied for a pair of runs in the bottom of the first.
Jacoby Ellsbury led off the inning with a sharply struck single to center off White Sox starter Phil Humber, who was making his first start after being activated from the disabled list. Ellsbury promptly recorded his first stolen base of the season and scored Boston’s first run when Carl Crawford ripped an RBI single to right.
With DH Daniel Nava at the plate, Crawford stole his first base of the season. After Nava grounded to second, Adrian Gonzalez singled to center to drive in Crawford with the tying run.
Crawford went 3 for 4 with 2 runs, 1 RBI, and 3 stolen bases. He is batting .571 after his second game of the season.
“I’m really happy that both [Ellsbury and Crawford] are back, they look really good,’’ Valentine said. “Carl’s playing with a real fire and it’s a good thing to see.’’
Lester ruined the good work of his offense when he allowed the White Sox to score the go-ahead run with two out in the second.
Alexei Ramirez reached on a one-out single to left, stole second, and scored on De Aza’s double to left. Lester got out of the inning after getting Youkilis to ground to short, elevating his count to 50 pitches after two innings.
Humber, meanwhile, looked very much like the pitcher who twirled a perfect game at Seattle April 21, as he retired 11 of the next 13 batters. The only blemishes in that stretch came in the third when Ellsbury hit a leadoff single to right and Nava got hit by a pitch.
The White Sox blew it open in the fourth when Dayan Viciedo belted a ground-rule double to center that hopped into the stands near the Red Sox bullpen. Lester then issued a one-out walk to Gordon Beckham.
After Lester got De Aza to ground to the mound, he wound up getting tagged by old friend Youkilis, who belted a 3-and-2 sinker into the Monster seats for a three-run homer.
“We fell behind, simple as that,’’ Saltalamacchia said. “We were 3-and-0, so we had to get it over the plate and threw a strike, 3-and-1. We threw a fastball down and it was strike two and at that point we got to go with his good stuff.’’
Youkilis’s eighth homer of the season, and fourth with the White Sox, gave the visitors a 6-2 lead and spelled the end of Lester’s lackluster night.
“Youk’s a great hitter,’’ Lester said. “When you don’t make a strike there, that’s what he’ll do.’’
Junichi Tazawa took over in the fifth and allowed the White Sox to tack on an insurance run in the sixth when Ramirez led off with a double to left, then scored on De Aza’s one-out single to right.
After Saltalamacchia caught De Aza stealing second, Tazawa got out of the inning by striking out Youkilis.
Humber departed after six innings and handed it over to Brian Omogrosso, who threw a scoreless seventh, retiring the Red Sox in 1-2-3 fashion. Lefthander Matt Thornton took over in the eighth and got roughed up as the Red Sox rallied for three runs on three hits.
Crawford got things going when he hit a soft grounder to third and beat out Youlikis’s bare-handed snag and throw. It was Crawford’s second infield hit of the night. Thornton then struck out Nava and induced Gonzalez to ground to first, advancing Crawford to second.
After Crawford stole third, Middlebrooks slapped a liner down the right-field line that scored Crawford.
Kelly Shoppach, pinch hitting for Saltalamacchia, belted a two-run homer to pull the Sox within 7-5. It was his second career pinch-hit homer, but it proved too little too late as the White Sox held on when Addison Reed retired the Red Sox in order in the ninth.