The last time Chris Sale faced off against the Twins, it was billed as a pitchers duel between him and Ervin Santana. As it turned out, it was the worst start of Sale’s season to that point but the Red Sox gave him plenty of run support and completely bucked the expectations of the pitching matchup. This time around, it was another great matchup, this time with the young rising star Jose Berrios taking the mound against Sale. The batters had the expected amount of trouble in this one, but fortunately Sale was great enough to rise above the 23-year-old Twins starter.
We’ll start with Sale, because he was the story of this game. Although, honestly, there’s not much to say about him in this one that is different from how he’s been over the rest of the season. If anything, he looked slightly worse than he has in a typical 2017 Chris Sale outing. That’s not to say he was bad, of course, but he seemed to be missing his spots a little more than usual and was slightly less efficient than we have gotten used to.
Even with that being said, though, it was a typically dominant performance from the early Cy Young frontrunner. The lefty made but one major mistake in this game, and it came in the top half of the third inning. In the first at bat of that frame, he left a hanging slider to Chris Gimenez and the Twins catcher crushed it way over the Green Monster for the Twins’ one and only run in this game.
Other than that, Minnesota never really got anything going. He had his slider working wonders with two strikes en route to nine strikeouts in 6 1⁄3 innings. Aside from the home run, the Twins managed only four base runners against Sale, and none of them advanced beyond first base. He’d get into a little more trouble when he came back out for the seventh, allowing a single and a walk. He’d strikeout Jorge Polanco after that before being pulled from the game. Fortunately, Heath Hembree had his back and stranded the runners with a double play to end the inning
As I said at the top, this is the kind of start we’ve come to expect from Sale, but I think it’s pretty important that we don’t take it for granted. This dude is amazing.
As for the Red Sox offense against Berrios, it looked like it was going to be a long night for the Twins starter early on. In the first inning, Boston’s hitters were smashing everything and appeared to have the young stud figured out. They started things off with two well-hit singles to put runners on the corners before recording an out. Unfortunately, Xander Bogaerts hit into a double play in the next at bat, knocking in a run but putting two quick outs on the board. Boston tallied another run after that, though, when Berrios left a fastball up in the zone against Mitch Moreland, who smashed it to left-center field for his third homer in as many days. They’d get a couple more base runners from there, but couldn’t drive in any more and left a big inning on the table with just two runs.
After that, Berrios really started to settle in and show why so many around the league are so excited about his potential. All of his pitches were impressive, but it was the curveball in particular that had the Red Sox offense completely out of sorts. After that first inning, he’d allow just a single in the second -- and that single was from Tzu-Wei Lin for his first career hit — before retiring 12 in a row. That streak was broken in the sixth by a Moreland single, and the lineup would add another base runner in the inning, but they couldn’t knock in another insurance run and entered the seventh with a 2-1 lead.
It’s hard to give the offense too much grief for not scoring anything after that first inning, as Berrios really settled into a groove. It’s no wonder he was one of the most hyped pitching prospects in all of baseball just a year or two ago, as he showed big-time stuff and legitimate command for most of this outing. With that being said, he was not himself in that first inning, and the Red Sox should have done a better job of taking advantage. This really should have been a 4-0 or 5-0 game heading into the second inning.
Fortunately, Berrios came back out for the seventh and looked a little gassed by that point. He lost that command he had in the middle innings and the Red Sox took advantage. Things started with a single from Sandy Leon, and after Lin moved him to second a ground out and Mookie Betts moved him to third on a single, Dustin Pedroia extended the lead to two with an RBI base hit. From there, the bases were loaded after a wild pitch and intentional walk, and Mitch Moreland made them pay with a sacrifice fly to give Boston a 4-1 lead.
That led to Matt Barnes pitching a clean eighth by striking out the side and Craig Kimbrel tossing a perfect ninth to lock down the save. The Red Sox could really use some positive momentum, particularly with the Yankees struggling, and they got on the right track on Monday. Chris Sale pitched like Chris Sale, the bullpen locked things down and the offense did enough — although they did struggle mightily for much of this one. It wasn’t perfect, but they’ll certainly take it.