Jon Lester, Chris Sale take no-hitters into sixth inning as Red Sox beat White Sox
Boston's Jon Lester and Chicago's Chris Sale both no-hit the opposition into the sixth inning, the second time this season two pitchers have gone at least five in such fashion. Once both pitchers departed — having given their depleted bullpens a break by combining for 15 innings, 19 strikeouts and just two runs allowed — the Red Sox rallied for two ninth-inning runs to win 3-1.
It was the latest attempt by two hurlers to at least equal the feat of Fred Toney and Jim "Hippo" Vaughn from nearly a century ago. Back on May 2, 1917, the Reds' Toney and the Cubs' Vaughn each held the opposition hitless through nine. Cincinnati scored in the top of the 10th via two hits off Vaughn, but Toney finished the job with his 10th hitless inning. On April 2 of this season, the Brewers' Matt Garza and the Braves' Aaron Harang both took no-hitters into the seventh in a 1-0 Atlanta win.
Though he issued a two-out walk to David Ross in the second inning and hit Xander Bogaerts with a pitch in the fourth, Sale worked 5 2/3 innings and notched nine strikeouts before allowing a hit. Unfortunately for the 25-year-old southpaw, it was a costly one. Facing Bogaerts again, his 92 mph fastball caught too much of the plate and the 21-year-old shortstop hammered it to leftfield for his first homer of the season, and the second of his major league career:
Sale stuck around for another inning and a third, working around a pair of walks in a 25-pitch seventh. He finished the night having thrown a whopping 127 pitches, one fewer than Cliff Lee's season high from Wednesday night. Three times he threw at least 21 pitches in an inning, and he never got out of one without throwing fewer than 12. For all of that, according to BrooksBaseball.net, he got 18 swings and misses, including eight apiece on his four-seam fastball and changeup, and struck out a season-high 10.
On the other side of the ledger, Lester retired the first 16 hitters he faced, six via strikeouts. He whiffed the side in a 21-pitch fourth inning, the only frame among the first five where he needed more than 13 pitches. He finally surrendered his first hit via a Tyler Flowers groundball Bogaerts got a glove on but couldn't stop:
The hits kept coming. Leury Garcia, who took the loss Wednesday night after being pressed into emergency pitching duty in the top of the 14th, hit a ground rule double, and Adam Eaton followed with an infield single that brought home the tying run.
Lester escaped by striking out Marcus Semien and getting Dayan Viciedo to fly out, but he nearly allowed another run in the seventh. Adam Dunn hit a leadoff single, and after the next two White Sox went down, he was lumbering for home on Alejandro De Aza's double into the rightfield corner. Daniel Nava threw the ball to Dustin Pedroia, who relayed to Ross in time to put the tag on Dunn to keep the score knotted at 1-1. Still in the game in the eighth, Lester had to work around another Flowers single, a sacrifice, and a Semien infield single — the seventh hit he allowed over his final three innings — but he recovered to strike out Viciedo, his seventh punchout of the night on his 105th and final pitch.
The Red Sox broke the tie in the top of the ninth. With Ronald Belisario on the mound and one out, Mike Napoli hit an infield single and Mike Carp (pinch-hitting for Jonny Gomes) followed with a single as well. Ross doubled to rightfield, scoring Napoli, and then White Sox manager Robin Ventura ordered Belisario to intentionally walk Nava. Scott Downs came on in relief, and Jonathan Herrera (pinch-hitting for Ryan Roberts) laid a perfect bunt down the first base line as the White Sox could do nothing but watch. Chicago escaped further damage when Jackie Bradley Jr. lined to Alexei Ramirez, who flipped to Semien at third base to double off Ross. In his return from a bout of shoulder stiffness that sidelined him for a week, Koji Uehara retired the first two hitters he faced — Dunn via strikeout, Paul Konerko via foul popout — before allowing a single to Alexei Ramirez. He sealed the win by inducing pinch-hitter Jose Abreu to ground to third base, giving Boston its first back-to-back wins since April 2-3 against the Orioles.