Rather than lay blame on the bullpen, White Sox manager Robin Ventura opted to credit Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester following Thursday night's 3-1 loss at U.S. Cellular Field.
It seems like White Sox relievers have been under fire since the season opener, and much of the early criticism has been well deserved.
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Pitching matchups: The White Sox' Felipe Paulino (0-1) vs. Martin Perez (2-0) Friday at 7:05 p.m.; Jose Quintana (1-0) vs. Colby Lewis (0-1) Saturday at 7:05 p.m.; Erik Johnson (0-1) vs. Robbie Ross Jr. (1-0) Sunday at 2 p.m.
At a glance: On the first road trip of the season, the White Sox lost two of three at both Kansas City and Colorado. Paulino already is in danger of losing his rotation spot after allowing 13 earned runs on 22 hits and 9 walks over 14⅔ innings in his first 3 starts. In eight games since replacing injured third baseman Adrian Beltre, the Rangers' Kevin Kouzmanoff is batting .414 with 1 home run and 6 RBI. The White Sox were 4-2 vs. Texas last year.
Next: Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park, Monday-Thursday
-- Scot Gregor
But Ventura wasn't going there after the White Sox dropped 2 of 3 to the defending World Series champions.
"Once the no-hitters were out of the way, we had some chances and we didn't get it done," Ventura said. "Jon was tough. He made it tough on everybody up there, and in the end he won that game."
In a classic pitcher's duel, Lester and White Sox ace Chris Sale each had no-hitters through the fifth inning.
With two outs in the sixth, Xander Bogaerts ended Sale's bid with a 425-foot solo home run to left field.
With one out in the bottom of the sixth, Tyler Flowers ended Lester's bid with a single past a diving Bogaerts at shortstop, and the White Sox tied the game after Leury Garcia doubled and Flowers scored on Adam Eaton's single.
The White Sox were poised to take the lead, but Lester struck out Marcus Semien and got out of the jam on Dayan Viciedo's flyout.
Lester wiggled out of more trouble in the seventh, when Adam Dunn was thrown out at home trying to score from first base on Alejandro De Aza's double, and he stranded two more baserunners the eighth inning.
"Lester did a good job," Flowers said. "He was hitting his spots it seemed like pretty much all day. He got out of a couple of jams when we had opportunities. And Sale did the same thing. Obviously you want to win those games, but all in all it was a very fun game to be a part of."
The ninth inning was no fun at all for the White Sox.
After Sale allowed 1 run on 3 hits while striking out 10 and throwing a career-high 127 pitches in 7 innings, Ronald Belisario pitched a scoreless eighth. Belisario came back out for the ninth and gave up consecutive one-out singles. David Ross followed with an RBI double to snap the 1-1 tie, and Scott Downs came on and watched Jonathan Herrera's bunt single roll fair down the first-base line as the Red Sox added an insurance run.
"When you don't score, that's usually what happens," Ventura said when asked about another shaky bullpen showing. "I think tonight, Lester was the reason. We had chances and we just didn't push them in. In the end, if you're not going to score with that many chances, things like that happen."
Sale was often hampered by little offensive backing last season. That was the case again Thursday.
"Obviously, knowing who you've got across the way, runs are going to be scarce," Sale said. "Going out there and giving everything you've got, a team rolls in like this, you can't really have any consternation with that. You can't shy away from that.
"We kept our heads high. I don't think we got outpitched or outhit. We got outlucked, I think."