The Red Sox came into Sunday’s game looking for a series victory, and perhaps more importantly some momentum for their offense. They just got that after a 95 minute delay to start the game, and they also got a great outing from Chris Sale. The ace had yet another phenomenal outing as he continues to look like the best pitcher in baseball, and the lineup got an all-around effort to give him plenty of support for a blowout win. These kinds of wins are the best kinds of wins.
It sure was great seeing the Red Sox lineup kick back into gear on Sunday, but as is the case just about every time he takes the mound, Chris Sale stole the show. The Red Sox lefty picked up right where he left off prior to the All-Star break, showing off all three of his plus pitches. The command of his slider was particularly impressive, and when he’s throwing that back-foot slider to righties on command it’s utterly unfair. That he had a little run support made it a little easier to enjoy the show without having to sweat through the entire thing, too.
Sale didn’t waste any time getting into a rhythm in this game, setting the side down in order with one strikeout in the first. In fact, he retired each of the first eight batters he faced with half of them striking out. Victor Reyes, the Tigers’ nine hitter, ensure that Detroit would not succumb to a perfect game with a two-out single in the third. Sale came out and induced a shallow fly ball to end the inning shortly after that.
The fourth saw the the only bit of trouble Sale got himself into, and defense could have helped avoid it. With one out Nick Castellanos hit a liner into the right-center field gap. Bradley was able to cut it off before getting too deep and had the runner dead to rights at second base with a good throw. He did not make a good throw, however, and Castellanos was the first Tiger to reach scoring position. Sale threw a bunch of pitches in the inning, but a strikeout and a groundout ended the frame with the double being the only bit of damage.
Sale came back on for the fifth and did hit a batter with two outs, but the runner was not able to advance beyond first base. The sixth was more of the same with an easy 1-2-3 that included a pair of strikeouts. It would also mark the end of his day, as he finished up with six strong, scoreless innings with nine strikeouts and no walks while allowing just two hits. Pretty good!
While all of this was going on, the offense finally got going on what was a bullpen day for the Tigers. Originally their ace, Michael Fulmer, was supposed to get the start but he was placed on the disabled list right before this series began. Blaine Hardy instead got the start, and he did shut down the top of the order with a quick 1-2-3 first. In fact, the top of the Red Sox lineup was the one part that struggled to get going, but in this game the rest of the lineup picked up the slack.
In particular, it was the middle portion that did the damage, with Steve Pearce and Xander Bogaerts leading the charge. In the second, they began the inning with a single and a double to put two in scoring position with nobody out. Hardy was able to get a pair of ground outs after that, but one was a slow chopper and the other was hit hard enough that Jose Iglesias had a bit of trouble handling it. The result was two runs on the board at the end of the inning.
The top of the order would then go down 1-2-3 (for the second time of the game) in the third before the rest of the group once again picked up the slack. This one started very similarly to the second, with Pearce and Bogaerts picking up a single and a double, respectively, to start things off. That was followed by a ground ball to first base, but John Hicks was deked by Pearce at third base and threw home. Pearce stayed put, and everyone was safe to load the bases without an out.
That brought up Eduardo Núñez, who chopped one to the left side. This one bounced over Jeimer Candelario’s glove into shallow left field, allowing Pearce to score. It seemed as if Bogaerts would be able to score too, but he was held. Rafael Devers did not get the memo, however, and was caught between second and third. It wouldn’t end up mattering too much, because Bradley came up next and got a middle-middle fastball that he crushed the other way for a three-run shot. Just like that, the game was broken open with a 6-0 lead.
After breaking the game open, the offense hit a bit of a wall against Drew VerHagen. Boston would go down in order in both the fifth and sixth innings. That wall would be broken through in the seventh, and this time the top of the order contributed. After Sandy León drew a one-out walk, Mookie Betts singled to put two on with one out for Andrew Benintendi. The outfielder smashed one out to left-center field that Victory Reyes couldn’t quite get to on a diving attempt. That resulted in a two-run triple, extending the lead to 8-0. J.D. Martinez followed that up with a sacrifice fly, and Boston exited the top of the seventh with a 9-0 lead.
Brandon Workman came on for the bottom of the seventh, and he didn’t have a great outing. After getting a quick first out, the righty left a fastball up and in to Jeimer Candelario and the Tigers third baseman — who has impressed this particular writer throughout the series — smashed it into the seats in right-center field to take away the shutout. Workman would allow two singles in the inning as well, but on the second James McCann was caught taking too wide a turn at second base and that ended the inning with Boston leading 9-1.
The Sox went down very quickly in the eighth, which brought Joe Kelly out for a low-leverage situation as he tries to get his way back up the pecking order. He did not do himself any favors with his outing. The righty had the first runner reach on an error by Tzu-Wei Lin — who was subbed in for Bogaerts — then walked two more to load the bases with two outs. He did get out of it on a deep flyout to avoid allowing any runs, but it certainly didn’t inspire much more confidence moving forward.
Tyler Thornburg was called upon to close out this blowout victory for his first back-to-back appearances since 2016. He had no trouble at all, getting two pop ups and a strikeout in an impressive outing.
The Red Sox travel to Baltimore as they continue a road trip that kicks off their second half. That series kicks off Monday night with Rick Porcello taking on Kevin Gausman, with first pitch coming at 7:05 PM ET.
As for the division, the Yankees and Mets play the Sunday Night game this week, so for now Boston has a five-game lead that will go down to 4.5 with a Yankees win or up to 5.5 with a Yankees loss. Let’s hope for the latter.