The Red Sox could really use a strong trip out west after coming out of the break playing .500 ball in extremely frustrating fashion. They got off to a good start with that goal on Saturday, putting up early runs to get the Angels in a big hole before they could even get to the plate. They also got a strong pitching performance from Chris Sale, who totally shut down the Angels even without being quite as sharp as he typically is. This was an extremely well-rounded win for the Red Sox, and those are the best kinds.
Chris Sale was not the best version of himself in Los Angeles (or Anaheim? Is that the same place? Stop being confusing, Southern California) on Friday night. Mind, not the best version of Chris Sale is still one of the elite pitchers in the game, but it certainly didn’t have the electric feel that he usually has. The control was slightly off from where we’re used to with the southpaw, and it seemed as if the Angels were having an easier time than we’ve become accustomed to in terms of fouling balls off with two strikes.
Despite all of that, he was still amazing and threw six shutout innings with nine strikeouts. These kind of performances are the ones that really make me impressed with Sale. We’ve seen some rough outings from him this year (relatively speaking), but almost every outing has been outstanding. It’s hard to overstate how valuable it is to have a guy who can shut down a lineup for six innings even without his sharpest stuff.
Sale actually gave up hard contact right off the bat when Yunel Escobar smacked one out towards the wall in left-center field. About 99 percent of the time, that ball gets down for at least a double. About 1 percent of the time Jackie Bradley is playing defense out there.
Sale would give up just a walk in that inning before setting them down 1-2-3 in the second. The most trouble he got into was in the fifth inning when he allowed a single to Martin Maldonado and a double to Cliff Pennington. The former was too slow to score on the double, though, and Sale would come through with a big strikeout to end the inning with two in scoring position.
Other than that, it was smooth sailing. Like I said, even when Sale isn’t as his best he is still incredible. The fastball was still located well more often than not, and his slider was effective for most of the night. In fact, he threw one slider to Mike Trout for strike three that made the best player in baseball look like he was just drafted out of high school. All Trout could do was grin and nod.
What made this a particularly atypical Sale Day was the amount of run support the lefty got. The offense put up six runs on the night, and almost all of them were on the board in the first inning. An inability to score early runs has been one of the most frustrating parts of this Red Sox season, so seeing them put a crooked number on the board was a sight for sore eyes.
The rally didn’t exactly start with a bang, as Mookie Betts hit a high blooper out to left field that somehow fell in for a hit. It hung up for so long that Betts was able to get into second base for a leadoff double. That turned out to be big, as he was knocked in by an Andrew Benintendi single before an out was recorded. After the Angels did get their first run, Mitch Moreland knocked in a run on a single. He’d move over to third on a single from Hanley Ramirez, and Moreland came around to score on a wild pitch for the team’s third run. Another single from Xander Bogaerts scored the fourth run and a double from Jackie Bradley scored number five.
Angels starter Ricky Nolasco settled down from there, but it didn’t really matter with Sale on the mound. After that Bradley double, Nolasco retired the next eight Red Sox batters before Bradley’s single in the fourth. Nolasco would allow a couple more hits in the inning to score another run and he’d be run out of the game after that inning.
The Sox offense did not have much success against the Angels bullpen, and surely it would’ve been nice if they had a better day throughout the game at the plate rather than mostly just having one good inning. Still, it doesn’t really matter too much either way. They got six runs on the board and that was more than enough to take home a stress-free win. After what this lineup has done recently, we’ll take that any day.
After Sale exited the game, Kyle Martin was called upon out of the bullpen. The rookie, making his second career major-league appearance, left a fastball over the heart of the plate on his first pitch of the game and Maldonado knocked it over the fence for the Angels first run. He did get the next three batters to escape the seventh allowing just the one run. Martin recorded one out in the eighth before allowing two baserunners and being lifted from the game.
Matt Barnes came in for Martin and quickly ended the eighth with a double play. He came back out for the ninth and allowed one run before closing it out and giving the Red Sox a win.
West coast baseball is stupid, and it is way past my bedtime. Still, at least this was a very enjoyable and stress-free contest to watch late at night. The Red Sox won’t get swept through their west coast trip, too, which is always a plus. They’ll look to clinch a series win and take their second in a row with David Price on the mound on Saturday. First pitch in that one will be at 9:07 PM ET.