Chicago puts Aceves in hole, then hangs on
In the first inning he was pitcher perfect, needing only seven pitches to retire the first three batters he faced. The next inning, Alfredo Aceves was anything but perfect.
Aceves gave up four runs on three hits in the second inning of last night’s 10-7 Red Sox loss to the White Sox before a Fenway Park crowd of 37,269.
The White Sox scored four times in the sixth, too, and needed all their runs to withstand a furious late rally by the Red Sox. Boston scored four runs in the eighth, highlighted by David Ortiz’s three-run homer, and two more in the ninth before Chris Sale struck out Adrian Gonzalez on a called third strike.
“It was a bad day for me, obviously,’’ said Aceves (2-1, 3.51 ERA), who absorbed the second loss of his career and first since June 7, 2009. It snapped a 12-game winning streak over 48 appearances, including three starts in that span. Aceves allowed eight runs (six earned) on eight hits — all season highs — while issuing three walks and recording one strikeout in five laborious innings.
“It was one of those games where you felt good, but [good] things don’t happen,’’ Aceves said. “You just have to swallow it and prepare myself for the next start.’’
But that start might be in question now, especially given the strong rehab performance by John Lackey (5 2/3 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 4 strikeouts, 0 walks) last night in Pawtucket. Lackey, who went on the 15-day disabled list May 16 with a right elbow strain, is expected to start Sunday’s game against the A’s.
Asked what was next for him, Aceves appeared puzzled.
“Next?’’ he asked. “What do you mean?’’
Asked when he expected to pitch again, Aceves replied, somewhat defiantly: “Every five days.’’
Given the way he struggled last night, Aceves’s next appearance very well could be out of the bullpen.
“I don’t think he executed like he certainly has the last couple of outings,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “Saying that, there were some balls that found holes, the two walks, and us not finishing the groundball to short, certainly didn’t help in that [second] inning. But he wasn’t quite as sharp as he’s been.’’
In that second, things went south in a hurry for Aceves. Paul Konerko walked, A.J. Pierzynski singled to right, and after Alex Rios flied to right, Adam Dunn walked.
Gordon Beckham, who went 3 for 5 to record his fifth three-hit game of the season, singled to push Konerko across with Chicago’s first run. Brent Morel then reached on a force attempt that shortstop Jed Lowrie didn’t field cleanly, scoring Pierzynski. Juan Pierre hit a comebacker to the mound and Aceves went to the plate to wipe out Dunn on the force out.
But with the bases still loaded, Alexei Ramirez singled to center, scoring Beckham and Morel to make it 4-0.
The Red Sox didn’t muster much of a response in the bottom half as Chicago starter Phil Humber (4-3, 3.06 ERA) retired Boston in order.
“He got a lead and threw a lot of strikes, especially with his offspeed pitches,’’ Francona said.
The White Sox tacked on runs in the third and fourth on an RBI double by Pierzynski and a run-scoring single by Ramirez to extend their lead to 6-1.
Boston’s only run in that stretch came on Jason Varitek’s two-out homer off Humber in the third. Varitek, who had a season-high three hits, sent Humber’s first pitch deep into the visitor’s bullpen for his second homer of the season.
“He swung the bat very well,’’ Francona said of Varitek, who has hit safely in his last eight games, batting .379 with two homers and six RBIs in that stretch. “He jumped on the first pitch for a home run, battled in his other at-bats, and found a couple of holes. It’s always welcomed.’’
The White Sox knocked Aceves out in the sixth, erupting for four more runs on four hits to make it 10-1.
Aceves began by hitting Dunn and Beckham followed with a single to right, and that was all Francona needed to see.
Aceves’s outing was done after 78 pitches (47 strikes). Scott Atchison came in and hardly fared any better, allowing the two runners he inherited to score on Pierre’s bloop single that sailed over Gonzalez at first base, making it 8-1.
Atchison then gave up a Ramirez single to right, which scored Pierre from second, and a Konerko sacrifice that scored Ramirez.
It prompted the crowd to break out into chants of “Let’s go Bruins!’’ in anticipation of tonight’s opener of the Stanley Cup finals.
The Sox did rally, however, scoring those four runs in the eighth, highlighted by Ortiz’s three-run blast off Will Ohman that pulled them within 10-5.
They tacked on two more in the ninth against Brian Bruney, who departed with two out after giving up an RBI double to Drew Sutton that cut Chicago’s lead to 10-7.
By now, Fenway was in a full-throated roar, as Gonzalez came to the plate to face Chris Sale.
But Sale struck out Gonzalez on three pitches.
“I just thought they [White Sox] swung the bats well,’’ Varitek said of Aceves’s night. “We weren’t able to adjust and we weren’t able to get into a good rhythm.
“They went from hitting good pitches to hitting some good pitches and balls finding holes, and we never really got ourselves established.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.