The Red Sox have been in a bit of a one-step-forward-one-step-back kind of mode of late, but they came through with a strong series against a depleted and mediocre Rangers team this weekend. It wasn’t a sweep, but you can’t even really come into a four-game series expecting a sweep. Instead, they took three of four, with the final win coming on the back of an incredible performance on the mound from Chris Sale. The Red Sox ace looked the best he’s looked all year long and racked up strikeouts like it was 2017. The offense wasn’t half bad either, though they took a while to really get going before breaking it open in the sixth and seventh. There was one bit of bad news, however, as Mookie Betts left after just a couple innings with a bruised shoulder. The outfielder was hit by an errant throw in the first inning, but the injury is currently being called day-to-day and in a mid-game interview Alex Cora said he was hopeful his star would be ready for Tuesday’s game in the Bronx. While we await more word on Mookie, we can celebrate another win and the best record in all of baseball.
The story of this game — besides Betts having to leave — was just how great Sale was. He’s obviously been great all year, especially when you look at the numbers, but he’s also appeared to have been lacking something. The command has never been totally on point, and his slider has been more inconsistent than we’d gotten used to in 2017. That’s not even mentioning that his velocity hasn’t been able to get up in the mid-to-high-90s on a regular basis. On Sunday, all of those things were working — particularly the slider, which was definitely the best it’s been all year — in the Texas heat. With all of his weapons working, Sale dominated the Rangers hitters.
A lot of times a pitcher has a strong game we say that we could tell from the get-go that it was said pitcher’s day. That’s usually the case, but it’s rarely the case to the extent that it was for Sale. The Red Sox ace, who was given a 1-0 lead before even taking the mound, showed off that nasty slider in the bottom half of the first. He struck out all three batters he faced in that inning, with all of the strike threes coming on the breaking ball.
That was his best inning of the day, but the only way he could have really topped it would have been to throw an immaculate inning. Still, he did get into a little bit of trouble in the second with some help (or lack thereof) from his defense. In that inning, he hit Nomar Mazara with a pitch to kick things off then allowed a single to Jurickson Profar to put two on with nobody out. He’d get a couple more strikeouts — these two on fastballs — after that, but then loaded the bases because of a Rafael Devers error in which he simply bobbled a fairly routine ground ball. Sale escaped the jam, though, doing it himself by snagging a line drive hit right at his head.
That was Sale’s toughest inning, but the Rangers did threaten again in the third. This time, Delino DeShields led off with a base hit, and after another strikeout the Rangers outfielder appeared to be picked off but ended up swiping second base due to a poor throw from Mitch Moreland. Sale issued a walk to put two on before getting two straight outs — though the first of those two originally appeared to be another error from Devers as his throw took Moreland off the base, but the call was reversed after a challenge.
From there, Sale got back to easy innings. He needed only seven pitches to get through the fourth, and in the fifth he did hit a batter, but got out of it again without allowing a run. From there he had another quick inning in the sixth that included two more strikeouts before finally allowing a little damage in the seventh. There, Ryan Rua started things off with a solo homer, but that was all Texas would get off Sale. All told, the Red Sox ace tossed seven innings with just the one run crossing the plate, and he struck out a whopping 12 batters with one walk and a couple hit batsmen. It was an utterly dominant, 2017-esque performance.
On the other side, the Red Sox offense was going up against old friend Doug Fister and he looked pretty solid. This isn’t too surprising given how solid he was for much of last year, but the Red Sox were able to do some damage and wear him down a bit. Unlike some recent games, they were able to plate an early run here. That first inning started with a Betts single, but he was hurt on the next play. Andrew Benintendi hit a grounder to Ronald Guzman at first base, and after stepping on the bag for the first out he tried to throw out Betts at second. Instead, the throw was a bit off line and hit the Red Sox star in the shoulder. Betts would stay in the game after that — and score on an RBI double from Moreland — but left after his next at bat. The Red Sox also had a chance at another run in that first with J.D. Martinez at third, but Renato Núñez made a nice diving stop on a play where Martinez was off on contact and he cut the runner down at the plate.
The offense got back to it in the third with a rally that started with a Martinez double. He would be knocked in a couple batters later by a big two-out single from Xander Bogaerts to extend the lead to 2-0.
From there, Fister did settle in for a couple innings, as the Red Sox didn’t threaten much in the fourth or fifth. They did get a two-out walk from Sandy Leon followed by a Blake Swihart (who came in for Betts) single, but Leon tried to get to third on the play. It was an overly aggressive decision, though Mazara deserves credit for making a perfect throw to the other side of the diamond.
From here, the Red Sox offense apparently got sick of playing in a close game as they spent that inning breaking this one open with the long ball. Boston got a two-out single from Núñez followed by a hit-by-pitch from Jackie Bradley Jr. to bring Leon up to the plate. He more than made up for the questionable baserunning decision by smashing a three-run shot out to right field to give Boston a 5-0 lead. In the next inning, Martinez hit his eighth of the year with a solo shot to extend the lead to six.
Out of the bullpen, Matt Barnes tossed a 1-2-3 eighth with a trio of ground outs, and Carson Smith had a strong ninth inning in which he struck out two and allowed just an infield single.
The Red Sox will get Monday off as they travel back east for a much-anticipated three-game series in New York against the red-hot Yankees. Boston will be sending Drew Pomeranz to the mound for the first game of that series against New York’s ace, Luis Severino. First pitch on Tuesday will be at 7:05 PM ET.