CHICAGO — Jon Lester has a World Series ring, two All-Star Game selections, and a no-hitter on his baseball résumé. He is a pitcher most teams dread facing.
But against the Chicago White Sox, Lester is just another guy.
It happened again Monday night. Lester gave up five runs in the first two innings against Chicago and the Red Sox went on to a 6-4 loss, snapping their five-game win streak.
Lester is 4-5 with a 5.43 earned run average in 10 career starts against the White Sox. That’s more than half a run higher than it is against any other team in the American League.
“I don’t know,” Lester said when asked what it was about the White Sox. “I don’t know. It’s just one of those teams. You have those teams.”
Even when Lester played it smart in the first inning, it backfired. With a runner on second and two outs, Lester pitched carefully to Paul Konerko, a righthanded hitter who was 10 for 23 against him with three home runs.
Konerko walked on five pitches. Lefthanded hitting Adam Dunn, 1 for 6 against Lester, was next. Lester fell behind him and left a pitch over the plate that was crunched deep into the stands in right field.
“Just didn’t do a good job there. Ended up leaving a guy who’s got stupid pop a cutter that’s down the middle. He did what he was supposed to do with it,” Lester said.
Dunn is 9 of 25 in the last seven games with five home runs and 13 RBIs.
After getting two quick outs in the second inning, Lester allowed a double to right field by No. 9 hitter Tyler Greene. Lester was ahead of Alejandro De Aza 0-and-2 before giving up a double on a 1-and-2 cutter that was well out of the strike zone.
De Aza, a lefthanded hitter, hit the ball the other way down the line. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks was pulled over to the right side and had no play on the ball.
Alexei Ramirez followed with a double to right field and the White Sox led, 5-0.
Lester knows the White Sox hit him hard. But he can’t change the way he pitches for one team.
“I’m not going to shy away from me. That’s what they want me to do,” Lester said. “They want us to overthink things and get us even more then. You just have to strap it on and see what happens.”
Lester allowed an unearned run in the fifth inning and again it came with two outs.
Ramirez reached on an error by Middlebrooks and stole second. Konerko grounded into a double play after Alex Rios walked, sending Ramirez to third. But Lester walked Dunn and Dayan Viciedo singled to center field.
“All six runs with two outs. Maybe that third strike in a couple of cases was a little elusive for him,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “Jon gave us what he could tonight. I know the White Sox have been a little bit of a struggle for him at times.”
Lester (6-1) left after six innings trailing 6-2. He allowed seven hits with three walks and two strikeouts. The two strikeouts, naturally, were his fewest of the season. The five earned runs matched Lester’s most for a start this season.
White Sox starter Dylan Axelrod (2-3) went six innings, giving up two runs on four hits. His only mistake came in the third inning when Stephen Drew walked and Jarrod Saltalamacchia homered.
The Red Sox scored twice against the White Sox bullpen but missed a chance for more.
Matt Thornton walked David Ortiz and Mike Napoli to start the seventh inning, drawing boos from the crowd of 21,816.
Ortiz tagged up and went to third when Daniel Nava flied to deep right field. Middlebrooks then doubled off the wall in left field, driving in both runners.
It was the 10th extra-base hit for Middlebrooks in his last 11 games.
Middlebrooks was stranded at second as Drew struck out looking and Saltalamacchia flied out deep to left.
Napoli led off the ninth with a single to center off White Sox closer Addison Reed. Reed struck out Nava. Middlebrooks then sent a fly ball to center that was caught at the base of the 400-foot sign by De Aza. Drew grounded to first base to end the game.
“I was hoping, but I knew I didn’t get enough of it,” Middlebrooks said.
The Sox were held to six hits. One was a single by Dustin Pedroia, which extended his hit streak to 12 games.
Shane Victorino came out of the game in the sixth inning with a tight left hamstring. He reached on an infield single and then felt the muscle grab when he went from first to third on a deep fly ball that was the third out.
Victorino moved slowly out to right field after the inning but came out of the game after Farrell and a trainer went to speak to him.
“I was a little worried. But after talking with the trainers and having them look at it, it’s something mild,” Victorino said.
Victorino missed two games earlier in the road trip because of a back injury. That came after missing seven games with a back injury that occurred April 24. The hamstring injury is not necessarily a result of that, but there could be a connection.
“You can tell the frustration,” Victorino said after sighing. “I just want answers why.”
It is unlikely Victorino will play Tuesday night.
“Given all he is dealing with, we’ll stay on the cautious side of this,” Farrell said.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.