(AP) — Not even a lengthy delay can slow down the Boston Red Sox’ run.
No team has been able to stop Jon Lester’s streak of winning decisions.
He’ll try to become the first Red Sox left-handed starter in 40 seasons to open 7-0 – and help Boston win a sixth in a row – on Monday night against the host Chicago White Sox.
After sitting through a three-hour rain delay in the middle of the seventh inning Sunday, Boston (27-17) completed a three-game sweep of Minnesota with a 5-1 victory.
“Even with a three-hour rain delay, they’re rarin’ to go,” said manager John Farrell, whose team is one-half game behind the New York Yankees for the AL East lead. “Keeping this group focused, I’m not going to say is not an issue, but the game is clearly a priority to them.”
Lester (6-0, 2.72 ERA) will now try to lead Boston to its first six-game road winning streak since April 23-28, 2012. Chicago ended that run, and a five-game home skid in this series, the following day with a 4-1 series-ending victory.
The left-hander, tied with Clay Buchholz for the team lead in victories, could become the first Red Sox starting left-hander to begin 7-0 since Roger Moret opened 10-0 as a starter in 1973. Lester won his second consecutive start on Wednesday, throwing seven innings of two-run ball in a 9-2 win at Tampa Bay.
Lester, whose 8.15 runs of support per start ranks among the highest in the majors, was staked to an 8-0 third-inning lead.
“We haven’t been scoring a bunch of runs lately and (the 8-run inning) takes a lot of pressure off so I could just go out and execute pitches,” he said after fanning five to move into fifth place on the team’s all-time strikeout list with 1,110.
He’ll face a White Sox team that’s back in Chicago for 17 of its next 23 games – includes two at the Cubs next week – after capping off a 4-3 trip with back-to-back losses to the Los Angeles Angels.
“You want to get one of these last two,” manager Robin Ventura said following Sunday’s 6-2 defeat. “But you keep going.”
The White Sox (19-23) hope Paul Konerko can get going after an 0-for-4 Sunday dropped his average to .224. He has four homers, and none in his last 15 games. Konerko, though, is 10 for 23 with three home runs and three doubles off Lester.
Alex Rios, 9 for 38 (.237) with two doubles against the left-hander, will try to extend his career-best hitting streak to 15 games. Rios and Alexei Ramirez led Chicago on the trip with 11 hits, followed by Adam Dunn’s eight – four of which left the park.
Chicago opens its eight-game homestand with Dylan Axelrod (1-3, 4.37) trying to win consecutive starts for the first time. The right-hander shouldn’t have any lingering effects after a right leg cramp forced him out after throwing 5 1-3 innings of Wednesday’s 9-4 win over the Twins.
Axelrod avoided a third consecutive losing start despite giving up three runs and a career-worst nine hits.
He is 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in his last two starts in Chicago after posting a 0.77 ERA in his first two at home this season. Axelrod has made one start versus Boston, striking out a career high-tying eight in a 5-1 road loss July 16.
The Red Sox have won eight of 10 in this series since losing seven straight and 14 of 16.
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