Chris Sale is everything. It seemed likely that he was going to come out with a bit of an edge after getting shelled his last time out, and he did just that. The Rays had no chance against Boston’s ace on Tuesday, as he mowed down Tampa hitter after Tampa hitter for the fourth time this year. It’s hard to overstate the importance of Sale to this roster, as he’s been able to come through so many times when the offense hasn’t been able to back him up. This was another one of those instances. Thank Papi for Chris Sale.
It’s really hard to describe how incredible Sale was tonight, just one start after his awful outing against Cleveland last week. It was clear right from the start that he was at his best in this one, and he didn’t relent throughout the outing. He was hitting all of his spots and his stuff was as crisp as ever. He even threw in a hell of a defensive play because, hey, why the hell not?
The ace of Boston’s staff was actually perfect through the first three innings, setting down the Rays order without any issues the first time through. He also had at least one strikeout in each of those first three innings and tallied four in total. The Rays managed their first baserunner in the fourth, but it didn’t break up the no-hitter. Instead, Trevor Plouffe hit what seemed to be a routine ground ball to third base, but Rafael Devers made a low throw in the dirt to first base that Mitch Moreland couldn’t pick. It seemed, to me, that the first baseman should have been able to make the play, particularly with his defensive reputation, but he didn’t and Devers was charged with an error. Sale would strand the runner at first.
Through those first four innings, Sale had a ridiculous line of six strikeouts, no hits and no walks on only 45 pitches. It was setting up to be a historic night. It didn’t work out that way, as Wilson Ramos gave the Rays their first hit of the night with a clean single into center field. Of course, Sale would strand him at first with a little help from his glove. On a chopper back towards the mound he made a nice leaping stop with full extension to make the third out.
Sale would end up allowing a runner to reach first in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, but no one advanced beyond that point. In the end, he ended up going eight shutout innings and struck out 13 Rays in the process while walking one and allowing two singles. Seems pretty good, to be honest!
As it turned out, the Red Sox needed every ounce of that impressive performance from their ace. The offense had a rough and frustrating day at the plate, a feeling we’ve gotten completely used to at this point. They have been turning things around of late, but they took a step back in the wrong direction on Tuesday. To be fair, Rays starter Austin Pruitt was pretty impressive in his start. He was hitting his spots, inducing ground balls and making the Red Sox put a lot of weak contact into the field of play all night long. On the flip side, Boston was a little too passive and just couldn’t do any damage when they had a chance. It was a mix of good pitching and bad offense, and it led to a slow day.
The Red Sox did get some hits against Pruitt, they just couldn’t come through with the finishing blow in any of their rallies. The game actually started with a double from Eduardo Nuñez — of course — but he was stranded after two ground outs and a strikeout.
There wasn’t much of anything doing in the next two innings, but the Red Sox would come back for a rally in the fourth. This one started with a Dustin Pedroia walk and an Andrew Benintendi single, and wasting this opportunity would be borderline unforgivable. They almost did it. Mookie Betts hit a groundball to shortstop but is fortunately fast enough to beat out the double play and put runners on the corners with one out. Devers followed that up with another possibly double play ball, this time to the pitcher, but Pruitt’s throw was low and the Rays once again could only get the one out at second. That scored Boston’s first run of the game. A Xander Bogaerts single put another runner on second, but no more runs would cross the plate.
The Red Sox would strand runners in scoring position in the fifth, sixth and eighth innings as well. They didn’t strand one in scoring position in the seventh, but it was arguably even more frustrating. Jackie Bradley got a one-out single in the frame, and Nuñez followed that up with a deep flyout to left field. Apparently, Bradley lost track of the outs because when the ball was caught he was at third base and easily doubled up. I....I don’t even know what to say about that. Just an awfully timed brainfart.
Boston would finally come through with another un in the top half of the ninth after Sale’s day had ended. Things started with back-to-back singles from Bogaerts and Moreland, and after a Sandy Leon strikeout Bradley was in a 2-2 count. Instead of another strikeout, though, he came through with a big single to give Craig Kimbrel and the Red Sox an important insurance run.
Kimbrel came in for the ninth to lock things down, and he did just that with three straight strikeouts. It was an encouraging outing after what’s been a bit of a downturn of late.
The offense couldn’t do the job in this one, but it didn’t matter because the two best players on the team this season came through like they have all year long. Sale pitched like the Cy Young favorite he is, and Kimbrel pitched like the Rolaids Reliever of the Year (or whatever it’s called this year) he is. And of course Nuñez got three hits just for the hell of it. Bogaerts had three of his own as well. With the Yankees losing to the Blue Jays, the Red Sox now have a four-game cushion in the division. Ho hum. They’ll look to keep the good times rolling with Rick Porcello on the bump.