Chris Sale (right) greets Adam Dunn after Dunn's homer gave the Sox a 5-2 lead. AP photo
Chris Sale regrouped to finish with with seven strong innings after issuing four early walks, Adam Dunn hit a two-run homer, and the Sox scored three runs in an inning for the first time without the benefit of a homer to defeat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-2 on Thursday night.
The win was the second in a row for the Sox (9-12), who will try for their first three-game winning streak with Jake Peavy pitching against the Rays (10-12) on Friday night.
Sale pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on four hits. He struck out seven and walked four. Evan Longoria singled in a run in the first and Jose Lobaton hit his first homer with two outs in the fourth for the Rays.
"I'm just trying to build,'' said Sale (2-2), who lowered his ERA to 4.09 while winning for the first time since Opening Day. "I'm just trying to get better with each and every outing. I wouldn't say there's anything different that I'm doing. Just trying to push forward and stay on the same track.''
Matt Lindstrom pitched a perfect eighth inning and Addison Reed a scoreless ninth for his seventh save in as many opportunities. Reed's ERA is 0.90.
Doubles by Alejandro De Aza and Jeff Keppinger (RBI), a walk to Alex Rios, an RBI single by Paul Konerko and a sacrifice fly by Conor Gillaspie produced three runs in the first inning.
The Sox waited till the sixth to score via the homer when Dunn, who had shown signs of life with three walks Wednesday and two hard-hit outs his first at-bats Thursday, homered with Rios (walk) on to give Sale a 5-2 lead. Dunn was 2-for-46 in his previous 12 games.
"Late in the game, you give Chris a three-run lead, we kind of like our chances,'' Dunn said. "It was good timing. We were able to keep it moving early and whenever you give your ace a lead early, you have a pretty good chance to win.
"It's hard to sit here and tell everybody that I feel good when the results aren't there. But I do feel good. I have felt good for the most part of the season. Obviously the results aren't where I want them, but it's been a pretty good two days. You just try to build on it.''
Said manager Robin Ventura of seeing Dunn hit his fourth homer, all at home: "You keep working at it, keep grinding. Tonight was a step forward as far as he is feeling comfortable in what he's trying to do. Hits a ball good, a line drive the other way, finally gets one and gets it.''
Kepppinger, who had his third consecutive multi-hit game, was 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored against the team he played for last season. Rios singled and walked two times and scored two runs.
Keppinger made a mistake at second base in the first out, failing to get the lead runner at second on a routine grounder. He was probably thinking about getting double play and instead let Ryan Robers advance to second, from where he scored on Evan Longoria's single.
Mistakes such as those have piled up for the Sox in their slow start.
"Yeah, that's one where you can nitpick,'' Ventura said. "When you win it's easier to critique that and go through that. When you lose those are the ones that keep you up at night. Again, you have to make sure you do those things right and eventually that turns. As far as the way everything is going, the last couple nights you're playing the way you want to play.''