The Red Sox beat the Rays 6-3 on Saturday, leveraging another largely wonderful Chris Sale start (3 runs, 12 strikeouts), albeit one in which he allowed two home runs, as the offense more than returned the favor against the erratic second-year lefty Blake Snell. Craig Kimbrel earned the save with a perfect ninth, and the Sox improved to 19-17.
The Sox only had seven hits, and the Rays just three, but they both made them count. The big blows for Boston were third-inning homer by the incredible Mookie Betts and three straight doubles in the fifth inning from Jackie Bradley Jr., Deven Marrero and Betts. Mookie would come around to score after his two-bagger, meaning these four hits combined for all of Boston’s runs as the Sox moved to 9-1 in their last 10 afternoon games.
The game started with a sight for sore eyes: A great defensive play at third base, with Marrero picking the ball going to his right and throwing out Steven Souza Jr. at first. Sale struck out the next two batters, but the Red Sox went 1-2-3 in the first.
Sale struck out Rickie Weeks Jr. to open the second, but lefty Logan Morrison pummeled a solo homer over the right-field wall. The Rays would go quietly after that, with the Sox returning the favor in the bottom of the second and the Rays one-upping them in the top of the third by striking out in order.
The Red Sox started their scoring barrage in third. Snell’s control, which had been fine through two, began to waver with a walk to Sandy Leon to open the frame. He almost escaped unscathed -- retiring Bradley and Marrero on mirror-image perfect lower-outer-corner 3-2 fastballs — but Betts blasted a homer over into the Monster seats to give Boston a 2-1 lead. Dustin Pedroia would double to keep the threat alive, but Xander Bogaerts struck out to end the frame.
The fourth inning saw the minimum come to bat for both sides. Sale notched another strikeout, and it looked like the Rays were playing for mistake pitches:
It must be fun to be a RHB against Sale today. 95 in your face, nasty breakers low and outside. pic.twitter.com/jOzGCmimLt— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) May 13, 2017
Thankfully for them, they’d get one of these mistakes in the top of the fifth. Following Sale’s first walk of the game, to Derek Norris, Kevin Kiermaier, another lefty, hit an 0-2 pitch out to right center field. It was only Kiermaier’s second homer of the year, and it was Sale’s second allowed to a lefty on the day, which is somehow both an aberration and completely normal:
Sale has allowed just 10 homers in his career to lefties. This is, however, the third game in which he's yielded two to lefties.— Tim Britton (@TimBritton) May 13, 2017
Thankfully, the Red Sox came alive in the bottom of the fifth as Snell began to tire. He walked Leon, the leadoff man, and this time Bradley pegged an outside fastball down the line in left to follow it up, rather than striking out. Marrero then hit the first double of his career, an bomb off high off the left field fence, and Betts followed up with a two-bagger of his own — the third in a row allowed by Snell — to make it a 5-3 lead for Boston. Pedroia would sacrifice Betts to third, and he’d score on a infield grounder by Bogaerts to push the lead to 6-3.
Sale worked around a walk in the sixth, striking out the two subsequent batters, and Boston couldn’t score off after singles from Leon (off Snell) and Bradley (off Jumbo Diaz) put a runner in scoring position, as Marrero whiffed with two outs.
Perhaps irked by the sight of Joe Kelly warming up (weren’t we all?), the seventh went quickly for Sale, as Morrison popped out on the first pitch, Tim Beckham struck out and Norris flew out to base of the Monster to end the ace’s after 111 pitches and a dozen K’s.
Boston went quietly in the bottom of the half, with Bogaerts missing his last chance to extend a 15-game hitting streak, and Kelly entered the game in the top of the eighth and proceeded to strikeout two batters in a nearly 1-2-3 inning that wasn’t nearly as smooth as I’m making it sound, but it got the job done.
The Sox went quietly in the eighth against Diego Moreno, and Kimbrel followed Thursday’s Immaculate Inning with a 1-2-3 inning, including 2 strikeouts, to push Boston’s total on the day to 16. That’s good, as is the fact no errors were made at third base today. Finally.