BOSTON (AP) – A.J. Pierzynski went 3-for-4 with three RBIs on Thursday night, making Daisuke Matsuzaka pay for a career-high six walks and leading the Chicago White Sox to a 4-2 victory over the plummeting Boston Red Sox.
Javier Vazquez (7-5) allowed two runs, nine hits and two walks, striking out five in 6 1-3 innings to win his fourth consecutive decision. Paul Konerko hit his 21st homer for the White Sox, and Bobby Jenks pitched the ninth for his 26th save.
Matsuzaka (11-7) allowed three runs and two hits while striking out six. But he bunched his walks together – two in the first and three in the sixth – and both times Pierzynski was there to drive the runners in.
The Red Sox have lost three straight, five of seven and eight of their last 11 since sitting a season-high 12 games up in the AL East. The New York Yankees, who lost 3-2 to the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday, remained seven games back in their increasingly realistic quest for a 10th consecutive division title.
Boston trailed 3-2 in the seventh when Dustin Pedroia singled with one out – his third hit of the game – and White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen pulled Vazquez so lefty Matt Thornton could face David Ortiz. Ortiz singled, bringing out righty Ryan Bukvich to face Ramirez.
Ramirez went sprawling to the dirt on the first pitch, and on a 1-1 count launched the ball to the deepest part of ballpark. But center fielder Jerry Owens chased it down in the Fenway triangle, reaching out to grab it a few yards in front of the 420-foot marker and just one step from the bullpen fence.
Kevin Youkilis, who also saw an early brushback pitch from Bukvich, struck out to end the inning.
Konerko hit a solo homer in the eighth off Hideki Okajima – the first run allowed by the Japanese rookie in 17 innings. Okajima had not allowed a homer since John Buck hit one on the first pitch he threw in the major leagues, on opening day.
After the start of the game was delayed 1 hour, 56 minutes, Matsuzaka retired the first two batters and then issued two walks, followed by Pierzynski’s RBI single. Matsuzaka got Jermaine Dye on a grounder to short to end the inning, the first of nine consecutive batters he retired before three straight walks to start the sixth.
With the bases loaded, Pierzynski singled home two runs to chase Matsuzaka and give Chicago a 3-2 lead.
Boston had a chance in the second, when Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek singled to lead off the inning. Lowell came around to score on two groundouts, then Coco Crisp singled.
Pedroia then got caught between first and second on his RBI single, and Crisp broke for the plate. Crisp was barely tagged out by Pierzynski, the catcher, while diving to get back to third base, ending the inning.
Notes: Guillen said he is planning to start RHP Charlie Haeger on Tuesday against Detroit, depending on whether he works this weekend in Boston. Haeger has made three appearances, all in relief, going 0-1 with a 1.93 ERA. … Red Sox RF J.D. Drew was out of the starting lineup to rest a balky hamstring on a wet night. … RHP Curt Schilling threw a side session on Wednesday and is on track to start his rehab with Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday. … Vazquez has not lost since June 11.