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Lester is stellar in first win of season

CHICAGO -- A week ago, there was panic and there was outrage in the land known as Red Sox Nation. Manager Bobby Valentine went to his bullpen with an eight-run lead against the Yankees on national television, only to witness an implosion of epic proportions.

In other words, it's amazing how much things have changed for a team that is suddenly among the hottest in baseball.

This time, Valentine went to his relief crew for the final six outs with the narrowest of margins.

And they came through, leading the streaking Red Sox to a 1-0 win over the White Sox on Saturday night.

Boston has won six in a row -- all six victories coming in the aftermath of that blown 9-1 lead against the Yankees last Saturday.

"That's what they're going to do all year," said Adrian Gonzalez, who had the only RBI in the game. "We know that. For the first couple of weeks, as the guys [struggled], especially on a team like this where everything gets overblown, overdrawn, you start pressing a little bit, trying harder. As the season goes and you get into the flow of things, you just stop thinking about that and do what you can. That's what these guys are doing."

For the first time this season, Valentine's team is at .500. This, after a 4-10 start.

The strong relief performances of Franklin Morales, Vicente Padilla and Alfredo Aceves gave ace Jon Lester his first win.

"They're coming together," Valentine said. "You play the season to build the little parts of your team. I think the bullpen is coming together pretty nicely. Even though it's been Padilla-Morales, tonight it was Morales-Padilla and they got through that [eighth] inning nicely. Alfredo finished it off. But the 1-0 game is the toughest game to go to the bullpen, we all know that, especially on the road. You don't win a lot of games 1-0 on the road."

It was Boston's first 1-0 win since a 16-inning thriller at Tampa Bay on July 17 of last season.

For Lester, it was his first victory since Sept. 6, 2011.

"Well, sometime, either last night or today, he asked what he had to do," Valentine said. "I just said, 'Pitch like an ace, like Jon Lester is', and he pitched like an ace. He had both sides of the plate. Two-seamer away, cutter in. Had a good changeup. Very competitive. He was terrific."

And he needed to be. Lester's opponent was Jake Peavy, who pitched a complete game, only to get the tough-luck loss.

"Those games are fun. It's just a battle," Lester said. "I've been on the other end of those. You feel like you do everything you can to put your team in position to win, and the other guy just does a little bit more or you don't get the timely hitting or whatever. That was big tonight, grinding it out. Our hitters did a great job. Defense played awesome tonight. Those are more or less fun. Every win is important for a pitcher."

The Red Sox have gone a full turn through the rotation with every pitcher earning a win.

"When Josh [Beckett] won his game, we said maybe we'll put a string together," Valentine said. "Now we have them all winning. That's how you start building a real foundation of a team. Those other little things are just parts of a team but foundation is what those starters can do day in and day out. They're pretty good. I'll take those five that we're running out there right now."

Lester went seven innings, allowing five hits and no runs while walking one and striking out seven. He threw 122 pitches, 78 for strikes.

Then there was Peavy, who gave up four hits and one run, walking one and striking out seven.

"The ball bounced their way tonight," Peavy said. "We did all we could do. Lester was mighty good."

When Peavy buckled ever so slightly in the fourth, the Red Sox made him pay.

Ryan Sweeney started it, blooping one into right and hustling out of the box for a double.

"I knew if he didn't catch it that I would have a chance," Sweeney said. "I was just going to try to make something happen."

With one out, Gonzalez fought off a 2-2 fastball against Peavy, his former teammate in San Diego, and punched it into right for the RBI single.

"Fastballs in," Gonzalez said. "We go to 2-2 with fastballs in and I had a feeling he was going to stay with a fastball in and I just told myself, 'Get on top.' If he makes a good pitch down, offspeed down, then you have to tip your hat. I wasn't going to let him go up top again."

Lester held it right there, and handed it off to the bullpen.

After Morales and Padilla navigated their way through the eighth, on came Aceves. He was magnificent, mowing through the White Sox 1-2-3 and ending the game by striking out A.J. Pierzynski on a changeup.

"He was great," Valentine said. "You know, we talked to him that he doesn't always have to throw it 97 [mph]. Tonight, he threw some very effective fastballs at 94, 93, and then had his 96, 97. He pitched. He got the final strikeout with a changeup. That's what you have to do." Comments