for this game

Chicago's Sale tangles with Boston's Lester

Apr 17, 2014 - 2:24 PM ( - Two of the best left-handers in baseball square off on Thursday when Chris Sale and the Chicago White Sox play the rubber match of their three-game series against Jon Lester and the Boston Red Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.

"He's always focused," Sale said of Lester. "You can tell he's very focused on what he's doing. He puts a lot of emphasis on what he does, and that's why he is who he is and he's done what he's done for so many years. He's been fun to watch -- hopefully not too fun to watch tomorrow."

Sale, who finished sixth and fifth in American League Cy Young Award voting the past two seasons, is off to a tremendous start this year, winning his first three starts, while pitching to a 2.66 ERA. His latest win came on Friday against Cleveland, as he allowed three runs and six hits in five innings.

This will be Sale's first-ever start against the Red Sox, who are hoping Lester can build upon his first win of the season.

"Yeah, it's cool. Matching up against CC (Sabathia) and (Justin) Verlander in the past, you feel like you've got to step your game up," Lester said of his showdown with Sale. "You know that they're going to pitch well and there probably won't be a lot of runs scored. Just try to match them and put up zeros.

"I love it. I think it's great. It's a lot of fun to be able to go toe to toe with all these guys. I think it's what baseball is all about."

After two hard-luck losses to start the year Lester beat the New York Yankees on Friday, as he allowed two runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings. The Red Sox had managed just one run in Lester's first two starts, but crossed the plate for him four times on Friday.

Lester has faced the White Sox 10 times and is 4-5 against them with a 5.43 ERA.

Boston evened this set at a game apiece on Wednesday, as Jackie Bradley Jr.'s two-run double in the top of the 14th inning carried the Red Sox a 6-4 win.

Chicago was out of pitchers, so infielder Leury Garcia (0-1) took the hill and retired the first two batters he faced in the 14th but walked Daniel Nava and Jonathan Herrera, setting up Bradley's drive to the wall in right field.

"There were some options there, but at that point Leury became the best option," Chicago manager Robin Ventura said of turning to Garcia in the 14th.

Chris Capuano (1-0) got the first two outs in the home half of the 14th, and Burke Badenhop took the hill to finish it and record his first save of the season for Boston, which had lost three straight.

Dustin Pedroia had two hits and three runs scored for the Red Sox, who hit just 6-for-44 as a team and 3-for-17 with runners in scoring position. Clay Buchholz started and allowed three runs -- two earned -- on six hits while striking out six over six innings.

"We had multiple opportunities with men on base offensively and we're still grinding away," Boston manager John Farrell remarked. "We didn't come out of our approach, we took base on balls when they were issued, and thankfully we walk away from here with a win."

Alexei Ramirez homered for Chicago and extended his hitting streak to 15 games, tying him with Frank Thomas (1996) for the longest season-opening streak in franchise history.

Boston won last season's series, 4-2, and has captured 13 of the last 18 overall matchups.