Red Sox-White Sox Preview

The Associated Press

The Chicago White Sox's Philip Humber was perfect his last time out.

While the 29-year-old right-hander dominated one of the less potent teams in baseball, he appears to have a much more difficult matchup this time around against the Boston Red Sox.

Humber takes the hill for the first time since his remarkable performance as Chicago and Boston open a four-game set Thursday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

After failing to live up to expectations throughout most of his career, it's safe to say things finally came together for Humber (1-0, 0.63 ERA) during Saturday's 4-0 win in Seattle. The third overall pick in the 2004 draft struck out nine en route to posting the 21st perfect game in major league history - just the second in April.

"I don't even know what to say," he said. "I don't know what Philip Humber is doing in this list. No idea what my name is doing there, but I'm thankful it's there."

Humber needed just 96 pitches to put away the punchless Mariners - the fewest in a perfect game since David Cone's 88 against the Expos on July 18, 1999. His performance was the 18th no-hitter and third perfect game in White Sox history.

"It's probably something you're not going to come by more than once in a lifetime," Humber said. "Just trying to take it all in and appreciate it and share it with my teammates.

"I'm overwhelmed to be a part of history in that way and never thought it would happen to me ... (but) I've got to pitch (on Thursday). It's not like the season is over and you can kind of just go home and think about it."

While Humber will take a crack at joining Johnny Vander Meer as the only pitcher with back-to-back no-hitters, a repeat performance seems unlikely with the suddenly-hot Red Sox (7-10) coming to town. Humber went 1-1 with a 5.84 ERA in two starts against Boston last season.

After dropping a season-worst five straight, the Red Sox kicked off a seven-game road trip with a three-game sweep of Minnesota. Boston scored a combined 24 runs while batting .354 against the Twins and survived another shaky outing from closer Alfredo Aceves during Wednesday's 7-6 victory.

"Well, we got a win," manager Bobby Valentine said. "That's what it's all about at the end. Three of those innings were clean, zeroes. We like zeroes."

Dustin Pedroia finished a homer short of the cycle while Mike Aviles hit a three-run shot - his second long ball in as many days - to extend his hitting streak to seven games, during which he's batting .414.

Felix Doubront (0-0, 3.94), meanwhile, takes the hill for Boston looking to build on his best start of the season. The left-hander gave up a run, four hits and struck out seven over six innings before the Red Sox's bullpen imploded, blowing an eight-run lead in Saturday's 15-9 loss to the New York Yankees.

Doubront has never faced the White Sox (10-8), who closed out a 4-2 trek with a pair of particularly discouraging losses. One day after collecting just four singles in a 2-0 defeat at Oakland, Chicago lost 5-4 in 14 innings Wednesday.

Paul Konerko sent the game into extras with a ninth-inning homer, the 400th of his career. The White Sox went on to score twice in the 14th but Hector Santiago got just one out before allowing three runs for his second blown save.

"We had a lot of chances," said Konerko, batting .385 with four homers and 12 RBIs in his last eight games against Boston. "It was nice to get back in the game and give ourselves a chance at getting the win but it just wasn't in the cards."

The White Sox had taken 14 of 16 from the Red Sox before losing last season's final two meetings. Since winning its first two home games, Chicago has dropped four of five on the South Side.

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