CHICAGO – Adam Dunn has been insisting all season he feels great, even while he was piling up strikeouts at the beginning of the year.
It's not so hard to believe him right now.
Dunn hit a three-run homer in the first inning and the Chicago White Sox handed Jon Lester his first loss with a 6-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Monday night.
"It was hard to sit here and keep saying over and over and over how good I felt, with no results," Dunn said. "Hopefully these results keep coming and people start believing me that I wasn't lying to them."
Alejandro De Aza and Alexei Ramirez added consecutive RBI doubles in the second as Chicago took advantage of an ineffective Lester (6-1) to earn its fifth win in seven games in the opener of an eight-game homestand. The White Sox scored each of their runs with two outs.
"The first inning's good, but you know for me, that next inning when you get a couple doubles and you score like that, that's a good sign," manager Robin Ventura said.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a two-run homer for the Red Sox, who had won five in a row. Saltalamacchia made a bid for a second two-run shot, but Dayan Viciedo brought in his drive on the warning track in left-center with the White Sox clinging to a 6-4 lead in the seventh.
Boston right fielder Shane Victorino was running the bases in the sixth when his left hamstring started to bother him, and he was replaced in the field in the bottom of the inning. He also missed games on Friday and Saturday with a back injury.
"He felt the left hamstring grab him, little bit of a spasm," manager John Farrell said. "Given what he's been dealing with, low back, I wasn't going to take any chances in that situation."
Farrell said Victorino was day to day, and the team would proceed cautiously.
Lester was trying to become the first left-handed starter to win his first seven decisions for Boston since Roger Moret in 1973. But he was shaky in the first couple of innings while falling to 4-5 in 10 career games against the White Sox to go along with a 5.43 ERA, his highest against any AL team.
"Chicago, for some reason, I don't feel like I've ever pitched well here for whatever reason," Lester said. "It is what it is, and it always goes back down to executing pitches at the right time, and I didn't execute the pitch in the first inning. That changed the whole momentum of the game."
Lester retired his first two batters before running into trouble. Alex Rios singled to extend his hitting streak to 15 games and Paul Konerko walked before Dunn drove a 2-0 pitch to right for his fifth homer in seven games and No. 11 on the year.
Dunn also walked before Viciedo singled home Ramirez to make it 6-2 in the fifth. The burly slugger is batting .360 with 13 RBIs in his last seven games, raising his average 39 points to .172 for the year.
"When he's right, he can do a lot of damage," Ventura said. "His pitch selection is good. I don't know mechanically exactly what it is but when a guy knows he's in the right position to hit and he's more confident, it comes down to pitch selection."
Lester retired the side in order in the sixth, and that was it for him. He allowed five earned runs and seven hits, walked three and struck out two.
While Lester struggled, Dylan Axelrod (2-3) pitched six effective innings to win his second straight start. The right-hander, who could lose his spot in the rotation when John Danks comes off the disabled list, gave up two runs and four hits.
"It's easy to have a lead and pitch to contact and just let the defense work," he said.
Axelrod acknowledged that he thinks about his role with Danks almost back from August shoulder surgery, but Ventura said there's still a bit to go before a decision has to be made.
"John's going to throw next couple of days, and then we'll find out exactly, go from there," Ventura said. "But again, it's not going to be easy for anybody. We'll make that decision when we get there."
Matt Thornton yielded Will Middlebrooks' two-run double in the seventh and Jesse Crain extended his scoreless streak to 17 innings before Addison Reed finished for his 15th save in 16 chances.
With one out and a runner on first in the ninth, Middlebrooks hit a drive that De Aza caught at the wall in center field. Konerko then made a diving stop on Stephen Drew's grounder and flipped the ball to Reed covering first to end the game.
The White Sox improved to 9-9 at home on the first night of a stretch of 17 of 23 games in Chicago that includes two against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. If the White Sox (20-23) can turn around their sluggish play at U.S. Cellular Field, it could be a chance to make up some ground in the bunched AL Central.
NOTES: The Red Sox activated closer Andrew Bailey from the 15-day disabled list. He had been out since April 29 with right biceps inflammation. ... Chicago 2B Gordon Beckham, placed on the disabled list April 12 with a broken bone in his left wrist, played shortstop in a rehab game with Triple-A Charlotte on Monday night. Ventura said Beckham could return to the team by the end of the week. ... LHPs Felix Doubront (3-1, 6.03 ERA) of the Red Sox and Jose Quintana (2-1, 3.97) of the White Sox are slated to pitch Tuesday.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap