A slew of rookies just helped the Boston Red Sox end a four-game skid. Giving the ball to veteran Jon Lester has a good chance of helping them stay in the win column.
The slumping Red Sox look for their sixth straight win with Lester on the mound, but they'll need to solve Jose Quintana on Thursday in the finale of this four-game series with the Chicago White Sox.
Boston (40-51) is in danger of becoming the first World Series champion to sit at the bottom of a division at the All-Star break since the Florida Marlins in 1998.
The Red Sox, though, are one-half game behind Tampa Bay for fourth in the AL East. They pulled closer to the Rays on Wednesday, when they did all of their scoring in the final two innings of a 5-4 comeback victory over Chicago (44-48).
Brock Holt was one of five rookies in the lineup and delivered Boston's second win in nine games with a walkoff single that scored another rookie in Mookie Betts, who was playing his sixth game in the majors.
"We were able to finish it off, which is something we haven't been able to do recently," Holt said. "So it's a good feeling."
The Red Sox are feeling pretty good about concluding this series with back-to-back wins as they turn to Lester (9-7, 2.73 ERA), who will join closer Koji Uehara at Tuesday's All-Star game in Minnesota.
Lester is 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA and 0.85 WHIP over his last five games, reaching the eighth inning in four of them. He's completed the eighth in each of his last two starts, while all three runs he allowed were unearned.
He gave up two runs Saturday before Jonathan Herrera's broken-bat, walkoff single secured a 3-2 win over Baltimore before the Red Sox fell 7-4 to split the doubleheader.
"My fastball command has been pretty good," Lester told MLB's website. "I feel like I've gotten the consistency back with my cutter - which has been helpful at times, just getting it in on righties. All in all, I'm moving the ball around pretty well."
Lester is 0-2 with an 8.82 ERA in three home starts against the White Sox, but he held them to one run with nine strikeouts in eight innings of a 3-1 win at Chicago on April 17.
The White Sox will counter with Quintana (5-7, 3.20), who is 2-0 with a 0.94 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 28 2-3 innings over his last four starts. He had a 4.43 ERA while losing five of his previous seven.
The left-hander has tossed 15 2-3 consecutive scoreless innings, three shy of his career high set from April 12-24, 2013. Quintana pulled closer to that mark Saturday with 7 2-3 while matching his season high of 10 strikeouts in a 3-2 loss in 14 to Seattle.
"I throw my pitches in the count, throw both sides, getting ahead in the count - it (becomes) more important inning by inning," Quintana said. "I keep going with that, it's the best thing for long games for me."
It certainly seems to work against the Red Sox. Quintana has thrown 14 1-3 scoreless innings while going 1-0 in two career starts against them. He scattered five hits in eight innings while not figuring in the decision of a 3-1 loss in his only visit to Fenway Park on July 19, 2012.
Jose Abreu, one of three White Sox All-Stars, has six hits with two doubles and a solo homer in his first series at Fenway. He's never faced Lester.