Well that was some vintage Chris Sale if we’ve ever seen it. This was as good as the Red Sox ace has looked in over a year as he totally and completely dominated the Angels on Thursday night. Coming off one of the worst outings of his career, he turned things around in a big way here. Amazingly, he did it working almost exclusively with his fastball and slider as he worked in very few changeups. At one point he had retired 16 in a row and he allowed only two baserunners throughout his eight-inning gem. Toss in a dinger each from Sam Travis and Sadny León, and that’s a sweet, sweet victory.
If there’s one thing this Red Sox team desperately needs, beyond the obvious answer of “wins,” it’s for Chris Sale to start pitching like Chris Sale. He has been anything but this year outside of a relatively short stretch in the first half. Coming off one of the low points in his career, as described by Jerry Remy and Dennis Eckersley on tonight’s NESN broadcast, when he allowed eight runs and was ejected on his way off the field without having completed three innings, it was time for Sale to turn things around on Thursday.
That’s exactly what he did in facing an Angels team that is scuffling hard right now. That is not to say this is a lineup full of easy outs, though, because they have a few guys right in the middle of their lineup who can do plenty of damage if given the opportunity in Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. This was an opportunity for Sale to gain some confidence, but it was also a chance for him to fall into a further hole if he made enough mistakes.
This was as close to vintage Sale as we’ve seen at any point in 2019 and probably the best we’ve seen him since midway through last season. He got off to a solid start with a couple of quick outs, including a strikeout of Trout. Ohtani broke up the potentially perfect opening frame with a double, though it was far from your typical double. The two-way star who is only playing one-way this year hit a relatively slow roller down the third base line. Rafael Devers committed towards it then, at the last second, thought it was going foul and pulled back. It stayed fair, got by the bag and Ohtani got to second by the time Devers backtracked and picked up the ball. Sale came back with his second strikeout of the night, though, and the runner was stranded in scoring position.
After that weird double, Sale turned on some absurd cruise control and just started mowing everyone down. He got a strikeout and two ground outs in a perfect second. Then he had a strikeout, a ground out and a pop out in a perfect third. That was followed with a pair of strikeouts and a fly out in a perfect fourth before he got a pair of fly outs and a strikeout in a perfect fifth. In the sixth he got a fly out, a strikeout and a ground out for a perfect inning. In other words, he had retired sixteen batters in a row and was at just 68 pitches through six.
On the other end, the Red Sox offense was looking to turn the gas back on after looking decent-at-best of late. They were going up against Dillon Peters. On the one hand, it is a pitcher they should do well against given his talent level. On the other hand, they have long seemed to struggle against unfamiliar lefties, and that is exactly how one would describe this Angels southpaw.
The first inning made things appear pretty bleak with the Sox going down without much fight in a 1-2-3 inning that saw both Devers and Xander Bogaerts go down on strikes. The second was much better. J.D. Martinez got it started with a solid line drive single into right field, bringing Sam Travis up to the plate. The former second round pick has been outstanding in this current stint in the majors, particularly against lefties, and that continued in a big way here. Peters threw a first-pitch fastball right down the heart of the zone and Travis demolished it, putting it off the back wall in center field for a two-run shot. Just like that, it was 2-0 Red Sox.
After sending three men to the plate in the third Boston got back in action in the fourth. There, Martinez once again got things started with a single, though this one was a slow roller with the infield playing back. Two batters later, Andrew Benintendi ripped a double off the Monster to put a pair in scoring position with two outs for Michael Chavis. The rookie got a couple good pitches to hit but couldn’t come through, popping out and keeping the lead at two.
We wouldn’t wait long for the lead to grow some more, though, and it came from an unlikely source. Sandy León was leading off for the Sox in this inning and he got a 1-1 fastball above the zone. The catcher was all over it, though, hitting an absolute laser that stayed up and landed in the Monster Seats for a solo shot. That put the Red Sox up 3-0.
That lead stayed into the top of the seventh, where Sale saw his perfect run end. Trout was the leadoff man in that inning and he ripped a line drive for a base hit to kick things off. In some other outings this year this would have been the start of a big inning against Sale. On Thursday, he responded with three straight strikeouts to leave Trout at first. He’d come back for the eighth for his sixth perfect frame of the night, this one featuring two more strikeouts. That marked the end of his incredible night in which he tossed eight shutout innings on two hits and no walks with 13 strikeouts. That’ll do.
With the three-run lead still in hand for the ninth, Brandon Workman came on for the save. He came on for a perfect inning and the Red Sox went home with the victory.
The Red Sox and Angels play the second game of this four-game set on Friday. Brian Johnson will take the mound for Boston with Jamie Barría going for L.A. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.