There just aren’t enough words in the English language to accurately describe how amazing Chris Sale has been for the Red Sox this entire season, and he’ll surely be rewarded with an All-Star appearance tomorrow night. In the meantime, he just continued his dominant campaign by proving that he apparently very much enjoys his trips to Toronto. Or, conversely, travelling to Canada makes him very angry and he takes it out on the poor Blue Jays. His first start against them this season was his best of 2017, and he was almost as good on Saturday, too.
On Canada Day, Sale totally dismantled the Blue Jays lineup and rarely let them feel as if they had any hope of scoring. He wasn’t perfect, but he was able to limit his baserunners to enough of a degree to keep Toronto off the board. He allowed two baserunners in the first, but got out of the inning with two strikeouts, and after leading off the second by hitting Steve Pearce with a pitch he struck out the next three batters he faced.
In fact, after that hit by pitch, Sale would retire 12 of the next 13 batters he faced, with the one batter he didn’t retire reaching on a single. He’d get into a little bit of trouble in his sixth frame of the day, which once again started with a hit by pitch. After striking out Josh Donaldson for the third time in as many at bats, Sale allowed Justin Smoak to hit a double off the wall in left field to put two runners in scoring position with just one out. Sale worked around it, though, inducing a groundout and a pop out to end the inning without a run being scored.
In all, he worked seven masterful innings in which he struck out eleven Blue Jays while walking only one (plus those two hit batters) and allowing only four hits. It wasn’t quite the eight shutout innings performance he had in Toronto in April, but the Red Sox will certainly take it. This was also Sale’s eleventh start of the year with at least ten strikeouts. He’s had 17 starts total. That is bananas.
Meanwhile, the offense didn’t take long to take advantage of Toronto starter Francisco Liriano’s lack of control. He started the game with six straight balls that included the first of three walks taken by Mookie Betts in this game. After two quick outs that made it seem the Red Sox might waste the leadoff walk, Hanley Ramirez stayed hot with a double smoked out to left field. Then, with two in scoring position, Jackie Bradley came through with a scorched liner down the left field line and just like that the Red Sox were up 2-0 before Sale even took the mound.
Things kept going in the next inning, too, when Deven Marrero hit a two-out single that was followed by another walk from Betts. After a double steal put both runners in scoring position Dustin Pedroia came through with his own RBI double to give the Red Sox a 4-0 lead.
Liriano would settle down a bit after that, finding the strike zone on a more consistent basis and generally shutting down the Red Sox lineup. Following Pedroia’s RBI double, Liriano retired the next seven batters he faced. That streak lasted until he saw Betts, who walked for the third straight plate appearance. After he stole second base, Betts moved to third on a groundout and scored on a sacrifice fly from Xander Bogaerts to give the Red Sox their 5-0 lead.
They’d add a couple more in the ninth on a rally started by the bottom of the lineup. Specifically, things kicked off with singles from Sandy Leon and Marrero, and after the first out Pedroia drew a walk to load the bases. Bogaerts would then come through with a big single to score two more and the Red Sox had a 7-0 lead heading into the bottom half of the ninth.
So, it was all up to the bullpen to not blow a large lead, and unsurprisingly they were up to the task. Blaine Boyer continued his surprisingly solid season with a scoreless eighth and Robby Scott came in and handled the ninth, though he did give up a solo home run to Pearce.
This was a fantastic all-around win for a Red Sox team that continues their winning ways. That’s now three in a row and six of their last seven, and Saturday’s win clinches their second consecutive series victory. Life is good for the Red Sox right now — particularly on days when Chris Sale is pitching — and they have Drew Pomeranz on the hill tomorrow to try to finish off the sweep.