CHICAGO --- Pinning the White Sox 3-1 loss to the Red Sox on Thursday night at U.S. Cellular Field on the South Siders' bullpen would be both easy and convenient.
After all, it was Ronald Belisario (1-2) who gave up two runs in the ninth to allow Boston (7-9) to escape with a series victory.
But the way the White Sox (8-8) viewed the contest, which featured a classic pitchers' battle between Chris Sale and Boston's Jon Lester, it wasn't so much a game they lost as much as the Red Sox won.
"We kept our heads high," Sale said. "I don't think we got outpitched or outhit. We got out-lucked."
"Tonight, Lester was the reason," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of his team's second straight loss. "We had chances and we just didn't push them in. In the end, if you're not going to score with that many chances, things like that happen."
Sale and Lester matching up in this series finale pretty much dictated a low-scoring affair, not to mention more pitches within the strike zone as compared to the 15 walks issued by the White Sox in Wednesday's setback. These aces didn't disappoint, with Sale hurling 5 2/3 no-hit innings and retiring 17 of the first 19 batters he faced, and Lester (2-2) setting down the first 16 he faced to start the game.
Xander Bogaerts ended Sale's no-hit bit with a 425-foot homer in the sixth, while Tyler Flowers' single to shallow left broke up Lester's bid for perfection.
"It's hard to miss when you look up there and there's nothing but zeros," Sale said. "It's kind of who is going to crack first. I think I lost that one by about 490 feet."
"Oh, I mean, it's cool, it's fun. It's a heavyweight bout tonight," Lester said. "It's kind of who was going to make the mistake first. He did, and then I gave it right back. If you don't like that pitching, you don't like baseball. That was a lot of fun tonight."
Leury Garcia followed Flowers' single with a ground-rule double, and Adam Eaton brought home Flowers with an infield single. The White Sox were set up at first and third with one out, but Marcus Semien became one of Lester's nine strikeout victims, and Dayan Viciedo flew out to right.
Another White Sox scoring chance came in the seventh when Adam Dunn singled to right and two outs later tried to come home from first on Alejandro De Aza's double to right. A relay throw from Daniel Nava to Dustin Pedroia to catcher David Ross nailed Dunn and kept the game tied.
"You have to take a chance right there, especially with the way Lester's throwing," said Ventura of sending Dunn. "Both of those guys were great tonight. Once the no-hitters were out of the way, we had some chances and we didn't get it done. Jon was tough. He made it tough on everybody up there."
There wasn't exactly much let up from Sale either. He recorded a season-high 10 strikeouts, giving him 11 double-digit career strikeout efforts and tying him with Billy Pierce for fifth most in franchise history in that category. He also set a career high with 127 pitches, winning a battle with Ryan Roberts in the seventh by striking him out after walking Mike Napoli and Ross.
Even in just the fourth start of the season, Sale didn't seem affected by the high pitch total.
"That's what I'm supposed to do, especially after a night like last night," Sale said. "We have the house throwing multiple innings. You got to pick up some slack right there and do what you can."
"I was trying to calm him down a little bit. Mixing in a couple more changeups seems to always bring him back a little bit more under control," said Flowers of Sale, who was visibly agitated after walking Ross but calmed down to escape the inning. "I felt that was a god move, and a lot of respect from the staff to leave him in there. He battled his butt off all game, and we weren't able to get too many runs for him. Kind of leave the game in his hands and he did a great job."
Boston's ninth-inning rally was highlighted by Ross' run-scoring double off of Belisario and Jonathan Herrera's run-scoring bunt single off of Scott Downs. Alexei Ramirez singled in the ninth against Koji Uehara (third save) to set a new franchise record of hitting in 16 straight games to start a season, but the White Sox would get no closer.
They leave a 4-3 homestand for a seven-game road trip to Texas and Detroit, starting Friday. Their confidence is intact despite the two tough setbacks.
"We'll continue in Texas and we'll continue to do the same thing we do," said Eaton, who robbed David Ortiz of a home run in the first. "That's compete every pitch and put our best foot forward."
"Like I said, this isn't something we should hang our heads about," Sale said. "We played three great games. We just got out-lucked."