Originally scheduled for 1:10 PM ET, the Sunday series finale between the Red Sox and Tigers did not get underway until about 2:45 in the afternoon. Luckily for us, Chris Sale still put on a show against an opponent he is seen plenty of times over his nine-year career.
In his 21st start of the season on Sunday, Sale, as he has done so often recently, dominated.
Tossing six full innings, the lefty held Detroit scoreless while scattering two hits, hitting one batter, and punching out nine, which is actually his lowest strikeout total since June 13th. Regardless, he still tossed a gem and was rarely put in any stressful situations.
Finishing with 99 pitches (73 strikes), Sale retired the first eight batters he faced in order. It was not until, with two outs in the third, Tigers left fielder Victor Reyes lined a single to left field for his teams first hit of the day.
The only other hit Detroit could come across with the Florida native on the mound came an inning later, when with one out, Nick Castellanos ripped a double to right center field, nearly got tagged out by Xander Bogaerts while heading to second base, but made it just in time to put a runner in scoring position.
Thankfully, Sale recovered by retiring the next two hitters he faced to strand the runner at second, although he did need 17 pitches to do so.
Out of those aforementioned 99 pitches, Sale relied on his four-seam fastball/slider combination approximately 85% of the time in the six innings he appeared in, which resulted in 17 total swinging strikes. The fastest Sale’s four-seamer was clocked in at was 98.6 MPH on his 58th pitch of the game.
Improving to 11-4 on the season now, Sale will look to build on yet another successful outing and win in his next time out, which should come against the Minnesota Twins back at home on Friday.
In relief of Sale, the Red Sox bullpen had a comfortable nine run lead to work with going into the bottom half of the seventh inning.
Making his first appearance since the All-Star break, Brandon Workman ended the shutout by serving up a solo homer to Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario in the lone frame he appeared in.
Joe Kelly got the call for the eighth inning with the chance to get some of his confidence back. Despite loading the bases, the Tigers failed to score a run off the hard throwing righty, as Jackie Bradley Jr. ran down a deep fly ball off the bat of Candelario for the third and final out to retire the side. Not the prettiest outing from Kelly, as he only threw strikes 48% of the time, but a scoreless one nonetheless.
The bottom half of the ninth was a completely different story for the Red Sox. With Tyler Thornburg pitching less than 24 hours after getting shelled, the righty reliever needed just seven pitches, all of which were strikes, to retire the only three batters he faced to close out the 9-0 win. They mentioned on the broadcast that Thornburg had said he is feeling more and more like himself on the mound, and what he did today certainly helped that cause.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against the second lefty they had seen in three days. Blaine Hardy, 31, has seen time as both a starter and a reliever with the Tigers this season, and had already made a start against Boston back on June 6th, a start in which he gave up five runs in six innings pitched.
That would not be the case on Sunday though, as the Tigers starter only pitched into the fourth inning before getting that hook.
Over those 3+ frames, the Red Sox tacked on their first two runs of the day on back-to-back RBI groundouts from Rafael Devers and Eduardo Nunez in the second.
Two innings later, leadoff hits from Steve Pearce and Xander Bogaerts, followed by Rafael Devers reaching first on a fielder’s choice meant that the bases were loaded for Eduardo Nunez.
After Hardy was replaced by Tigers reliever Drew VerHagen, Nunez grounded an RBI single that scored Steve Pearce from third. As the ball deflected off the third baseman’s glove however, some confusion was created and Rafael Devers ended up getting tagged out in between second and third.
With one out in the fourth now and runners on the corners, Jackie Bradley Jr. came through with his second hit of the day, a 390 foot three-run opposite field blast hit to left field for his seventh of the season. 6-0 game.
Fast forward to the seventh, and Andrew Benintendi picked up his only hit of the day on a one out, two RBI triple off of Tigers pitcher Daniel Stumpf to score both Sandy Leon and Mookie Betts to make it a 8-0 game.
One pitching change later, JD Martinez drove in Benintendi from third in the process of picking up his 81st RBI of the season on a sac fly to right field. Ninth and final run on the board, and that turned out to be more than enough for the Red Sox to pick up their league leading 70th win of the year.
Some notes from this win:
Over his last five starts, Chris Sale is 5-0 with a 0.23 ERA and 0.55 WHIP in 40 innings pitched. Also important to note:
In 13 games with the Red Sox, Steve Pearce owns an OPS of 1.099.
Jackie Bradley Jr. is slashing .265/.327/.469 with one home run and 12 RBI in 14 games this month.
Improving to 26-6 in series finales on the season, the Red Sox will head to Baltimore to wrap up this quick six-game road trip. Going up against a dismal 28-72 Orioles team, Rick Porcello will get the start for the series opener on Monday.
He’ll be matched up against fellow righty Kevin Gausman for Baltimore, who surrendered six runs on eight hits in his only other start against Boston this season back on May 17th.
First pitch of the first game is scheduled for 7:05 PM ET on Monday.