After a couple of long, stressful extra inning games to start this series, the Red Sox took control of this game from Wade Miley fairly early and never looked back. Their starting pitcher was a massive reason for that, as Chris Sale cruised through this Orioles lineup and looked as good as he has in a long time. He also got his big achievement for the year, striking out his 300th batter of the season in the last at bat of the game for the ace. This was an enjoyable game. They should do this more often.
For as nice as it was to see the offense jump out to a relatively early lead, this one was all about Sale. The Red Sox ace hasn’t been quite as bad as some have made it seem in recent starts, but there’s no doubt he hasn’t been himself. On Wednesday, he showed that he certainly still has that elite-level talent in him this late in the year. It wasn’t just the results — though those were great — but also the way he got them. He was mixing up his pitches, his fastball velocity was up and his slider was filthy. In short, he was in his most dominant form and the Orioles had no chance.
Really, there isn’t a whole lot more to say on the start, which is truly the sign of a great Sale Day. When he’s at his best, he just surgically cruises through lineups and that’s what he did in this game. The Orioles didn’t even manage to get a runner into scoring position against the lefty until the seventh inning when Trey Mancini hit a leadoff double. He’d end up allowing runners on the corners in the inning, but kept them from scoring with a couple of strikeouts.
In the end, Sale ended up getting through eight scoreless innings, and his night ended with a bang. Ryan Flaherty would be the last batter he faced, and Sale set him down with a nasty slider. It was his 13th strikeout of the night, and more importantly it was his 300th of the season. That is a whole lot of strikeouts, to be honest.
As for the offense, while they certainly did the job, it didn’t look like that was going to be the case in this one. After a couple games to start this series in which they got started late and contributed to two extra-inning affairs, it was understandable to be worried in this one. They made Miley look very good the first time through the order as they went down 1-2-3 in the first two innings.
The third inning is where things took a turn, though it wasn’t all on the Red Sox hitting. The rally started with Deven Marrero reaching on an error, and a couple of walks loaded the bases for Dustin Pedroia with just one out. He made solid contact, but it was a line drive right at the shortstop and Sandy Leon got caught too far off the bag at second, turning it into an inning-ending double play.
Although they couldn’t get it done in the third, it gave them a little momentum to carry into the fourth, and the delivered in that one. After Andrew Benintendi led things off with a bloop single, Mookie Betts drove a curveball that was below the zone into the seats in left field for a line drive home run. It was a wildly impressive piece of hitting and it gave Boston a 2-0 lead. After Hanley Ramirez smacked a double — the first of a couple encouraging swings from the DH in this game — Deven Marrero came up with one on and one out. He got a fastball out over the heart of the plate and he smashed it the other way for a two-run shot to right-center field. Marrero’s ability to hit left-handed pitching has been a pleasant surprise this year and could earn him a spot on the postseason roster.
The Red Sox would end up adding a couple more in the next inning after Benintendi and Betts both drew walks with one out and Ramirez knocked them both in with his second double of the day. There were a lot of encouraging things about this game, and Sale’s outing was probably number one. If anything was going to challenge that, though, it would be Ramirez looking as strong as he did at the plate. A couple more runs would come in the eighth when Pedroia came through with a big two-RBI double to right field to extend the lead to eight. The game was already in hand at this point, but the Red Sox second baseman was in the midst of an 0-18 slump and that is a big way to bust it. This team obviously needs him hitting if it wants to be at its best.
Austin Maddox came on to close out the game, and he got into some trouble allowing an infield single and a solid double, but preserved the shutout in the end.
So, the Red Sox win yet again, but of course they couldn’t get any help in their quest to clinch the division as the Yankees beat the Twins for a sweep of their own. So it goes. As long as the Red Sox keep winning, it doesn’t matter what the Yankees do. That being said, it sure would be neat if they made it a little easier for the good guys. Either way, the magic number for the division is down to eight. As far as a postseason berth is concerned, they can clinch that tonight if the Angels lose to Cleveland. That’s not the goal, of course, but that will be nice. The Red Sox have a well earned day off on Thursday before starting a three-game set in Cincinnati on Friday.