Red Sox pitcher Jake Peavy said he would go out for dinner with his former Chicago White Sox teammates on Saturday night regardless of what transpired at Fenway Park.
Peavy left the clubhouse assuming he would be picking up a hefty check after throwing seven strong innings that lifted the Red Sox to a 7-2 victory before a sellout crowd of 37,363.
On Friday, Peavy wondered whether the experience would be an unusual one. He spent parts of five seasons with the White Sox and was one of the team leaders before he was traded to the Red Sox in July.
But when he took the mound, it became a game like any other — and one the Red Sox needed to win to maintain their edge in the American League East.
“You know what? It really wasn’t that big of a deal once you got out there. When you get out there you’re in compete mode,” Peavy said. “We’re all used to guys being traded and you know guys. I just knew those guys a little bit more.”
Peavy used that knowledge mostly to his advantage as he allowed two runs on five hits, all singles. He walked one and struck out four to improve to 3-1 with a 3.18 earned run average in six starts with the Red Sox. Peavy had better stuff in his two previous starts but managed the Chicago lineup well.
The one White Sox hitter who did give Peavy some pause was Adam Dunn.
“It was different having to face my best friend in the world. It was different for sure,” Peavy said.
That Dunn was 0 for 3 with a strikeout allowed Peavy to walk into that late-night dinner with a smile. But he planned to take it easy on his old mates.
“That team’s in a rough position not playing for anything. There won’t be any jabs until maybe later on in the winter,” Peavy said. “But I can promise you he wouldn’t have that same respect toward me if he had gotten the better of it. Adam’s a great competitor.”
The 81-56 Red Sox have won six of their last seven games. With Tampa Bay losing at Oakland, their lead in the division is up to 4½ games. That’s the largest it has been since July 12.
The Sox will try to complete the three-game series sweep on Sunday afternoon with Felix Doubront facing rookie Andre Rienzo.
Doubront has some history to tend to. Red Sox pitchers have gone 11 consecutive games without allowing more than three runs. That’s the longest streak for the franchise since 1988 and the longest in the majors since the Blue Jays went 12 games in 1991.
Red Sox starters have a 2.15 ERA in those 11 games. Behind the work of their rotation, the Sox are on their best roll since the All-Star break.
“It means the game is under control,” manager John Farrell said. “Every time we bring a reliever to the mound, he’s rested and you’re typically going to get better performance out of those guys because of that and not being overused.”
Strong starts typically build confidence for other players, too.
“It sets the tone for our team,” Farrell said. “The feeling in that clubhouse is shared not just by the guys in the starting rotation.”
As Peavy handled his former team, the Red Sox collected 15 hits off three White Sox pitchers. Jacoby Ellsbury had three hits, scored two runs, and drove in another.
Shane Victorino, David Ortiz, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, David Ross, and rookie Xander Bogaerts each had two hits.
White Sox starter John Danks (4-11) lasted only five innings, giving up six runs, five earned, on 11 hits. The Red Sox scored in four of his five innings to build a 6-2 lead.
It started in the first inning when Ellsbury singled and took third on a two-out error by first baseman Paul Konerko on a ball hit by Ortiz. Napoli’s single made it 1-0.
Back-to-back doubles with two outs by Napoli and Gomes accounted for a well-bearded run in the third inning.
Ross started the fourth inning with a bunt single to the left side. Bogaerts, starting for the fourth time since his promotion from Triple A Pawtucket, followed with a single to left.
Ellsbury’s shot to right field hopped the short wall for an RBI double. Bogaerts scored when Dustin Pedroia grounded to second. Ortiz served a single into left field to drive in Ellsbury.
Gomes singled sharply to left field to lead off the fifth inning and eventually scored on another single to left field by Bogaerts.
Ross, the backup catcher, was 2 for 3 with a walk. After missing two months recovering from a concussion, he’s starting to feel more comfortable at the plate.
“I feel better. I’m getting my timing back. There for a while I wasn’t seeing [the ball] at all,” Ross said. “Being back, working on it every day in batting practice, trying to get some extra swings. It was nice to get some hits and get something to fall.”
The 20-year-old Bogaerts is the youngest Red Sox player to reach base three times, score at least one run and drive in at least one other since Tony Conigliaro and Tony Horton in 1965.Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.