CHICAGO -- The timeliest hit, the one that put the Red Sox ahead for good on Thursday night at U.S. Cellular Field, came from the invaluable backup catcher.
David Ross went the other way for an RBI double down the line in right with one out in the top of the ninth to snap a tie and lead Boston to a 3-1 victory in the rubber match of a three-game series against the White Sox.
"That's a really good feeling," said Ross. "That's nice. I don't really get a lot of credit for hitting a lot of times, but I try to battle and I want to get good at-bats for my teammates and go up there and do the best I can. I like to be known as a catcher, but I know I can hit and I have a lot of confidence in myself. And go up there and know I'm not going to be an easy out. So that's what I pride myself on, just trying to do the best I can to help my team win."
All series long -- and in fact for most of the season to date -- the Red Sox have been struggling to score.
But they managed to leave Chicago with two straight wins, both of them earned in the final inning of the game.
Jon Lester got a much-deserved win, firing eight strong innings in which he allowed seven hits and a run while striking out nine. And Lester slightly outdueled fellow lefty ace Chris Sale, who was marvelous for the White Sox.
This wasn't the first time Ross has helped lift his batterymate with an RBI double down the line that was just fair. Ross did the same thing, only down the left-field line, to give Lester a win in Game 5 of last year's World Series, a game that also finished with a 3-1 final.
"He's done that a time or two for me," said Lester. "It's great to see, especially your batterymate. You cheer them on sometimes more than you do some of the other guys just because you want them to succeed. Hitting for them is kind of second. They want us to throw a good game. Any time they're able to get some hits or some RBIs, it's huge for us."
Through the mid innings, this duel was as good as it gets.
Lester had a perfect game going for 5 1/3 innings, until Tyler Flowers broke it up with a single deep in the hole and off the glove of shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
Sale, Chicago's young stud, had a no-hitter with one walk with two outs in the sixth until Bogaerts ended his bid with a 425-foot homer to left-center.
It was the second career homer for Bogaerts. His first was a rocket of similar distance at Yankee Stadium last September.
"I felt good on that one," said Bogaerts. "The one at Yankee Stadium, I didn't know how far that would go. This one, I felt pretty good."
Lester and Sale enjoyed the competition.
"Oh, I mean, it's cool, it's fun," said Lester. "It's a heavyweight bout tonight. It's kind of who was going to make the mistake first. He did, and then I gave it right back. Like I said, it was a fun night to pitch. If you don't like that pitching, you don't like baseball. That was a lot of fun tonight."
The Red Sox maintained their streak of nobody pitching a no-hitter against them since Seattle's Chris Bosio on April 22, 1993.
"It's hard to miss when you look up there and there's nothing but zeros," said Sale. "It's kind of who is going to crack first. I think I lost that one by about 490 feet. But at the same time, all the credit to him."
In the first inning, there was a spectacular defensive play by White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton, who perfectly timed his leap at the wall in center to rob David Ortiz of a home run.
Even if Sale had kept his no-hitter going, it's unlikely he would have been able to finish it. The lefty had 102 pitches through six.
Meanwhile, Lester cruised, retiring the first 16 batters he faced on 69 pitches.
The Lester-Ross duo is one that has been clicking since late last season.
"Rossy and I have been in a pretty good rhythm the past couple of starts," said Lester. "He's done a great job for me back there. It's been fun, this little run we've been on for a little while."
After Flowers broke up the perfecto, Leury Garcia followed with a ground-rule double. Eaton's infield single brought home Flowers to tie the game at 1.
The White Sox nearly went in front in the seventh when Alejandro De Aza ripped a double into the corner in right. Adam Dunn tried to score from first, but Daniel Nava dug the ball out and relayed to Dustin Pedroia, who made a perfect throw home to nail the runner.
"Nava did a great job of getting me the ball. I had my legs under me and I was able to make a strong throw, and Rossy made a great tag and everything," said Pedroia. "It was a good play. For sure, that's a big momentum change. If they score on that, a lot of things can happen."
The Red Sox started the winning rally on an infield hit by Mike Napoli. Mike Carp came off the bench and belted a pinch-hit single to left.
Up came Ross, who hit an 0-2, 95-mph offering from Ronald Belisario to bring home Napoli.
Jonathan Herrera added an insurance run by reaching on a safety squeeze.
Koji Uehara, who had been out for the last week with shoulder stiffness, saved it in the ninth, sending the Red Sox home on a good note.
"It was a huge team win," said Ross. "Think about it, the whole game was pitching, defense, timely hitting, tough at-bats, key walks, big homer. It was just an all-around team win. We just had to scrap and claw."