After getting walked off on to open up a seven-game road trip on Thursday night, the Red Sox bounced back in impressive fashion Friday with a 6-0 shutout victory over the Chicago White Sox.
Leading the charge and making his seventh start of the season against his former club in this one was Chris Sale, who entered the weekend looking to avoid his seventh losing decision of the year already.
Working the first six innings Friday, the left-hander turned in a masterful performance, holding the White Sox scoreless on just three hits, two HBPs, and one walk to go along with 10 strikeouts on the night.
With Sandy Leon behind the plate, Sale did not face more than five hitters in any of the six innings he appeared in while retiring 11 of the first 13 hitters he faced before former Red Sox prospect Yoan Moncada broke up any chance of a no-hitter with a two out single in the fourth.
That was snuffed out almost immediately though, as the Cuba native was picked off by Leon while trying to steal second for the third and final out of the inning.
Less than a full frame after that, the White Sox were threatening to get on the board with runners on first and second and three outs still get.
Fortunately for the Sox, the southpaw responded in classic Chris Sale fashion by fanning the next three hitters he faced on 12 pitches to put an end to any threat.
Ending his night by working his way around a two out double in the sixth and getting Moncada looking for his 10th and final strikeout of the night, Sale did indeed earn his first winning decision of 2019.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 104 (70 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler turned to his slider 37% of the time he was on the mound Friday while inducing three swings and misses with the pitch. He also topped out at 96.5 MPH and averaged 93.1 MPH with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he went to 37 times.
Improving to 1-5 on the year and lowering his ERA by more than one run, Sale will look to keep things rolling in his next time out, which should come against the Batimore Orioles on Wednesday.
In relief of Sale, the Red Sox bullpen had a relatively comfortable six-run lead to protect heading into the seventh.
Heath Hembree sat down the only three White Sox hitters he faced in order in that seventh inning, Colten Brewer allowed Chicago’s lone run of the night to cross the plate in the eighth, and Josh Smith tossed a scoreless ninth in his Red Sox debut to lock down the 6-1 win.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against White Sox right-hander Reynaldo Lopez, who like Thursday’s starter Lucas Giolito, was part of the trade that sent outfielder Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals prior to the start of the 2017 season.
Only pitching against Boston one previous time before Friday in his young career, the Red Sox bats took advantage and struck right away in the first inning of this one.
As it turns out, all the damage done off Lopez in the first came with two outs in the frame, and it started with a red-hot JD Martinez roping a ground-rule double to right field.
Two batters later, after Xander Bogaerts advanced Martinez to third with an infield single, Rafael Devers came through with his first home run of the season, and it was a doozy.
Registering at 436 feet and 111 MPH off the bat, you could say Devers’ first big fly of the 2019 came at a good time following that costly ninth inning error on Thursday.
Fast forward to the sixth, after Devers led things off by reaching first on a single, Michael Chavis essentially one upped the first home run of the night by tattooing a 459 foot, 110 MPH, two-run dinger of his own to give the Red Sox a five-run advantage.
And still in the sixth, with Lopez out and reliever Jose Ruiz in for Chicago, Mookie Betts put the exclamation point on this one for the Red Sox by drawing a five pitch, bases loaded walk to drive in Mitch Moreland from third and make it a 6-0 game at the time.
The Red Sox did have the chance to add on in the ninth, but were unable to get anything across against second baseman Jose Rondon, who made his first career appearance as a reliever for the White Sox Friday.
Given the fact that Rick Renteria’s team was only trailing by five runs, it was honestly pretty odd to see a position player pitching in that situation. Still, credit to Rondon for holding his own and tossing a scoreless inning to keep his team within striking distance.
Some notes from this 6-1 win:
On a down note, Tzu-Wei Lin had to depart from this contest in the second inning after injuring his left leg while sliding into second on a failed stolen base attempt.
Later diagnosed with a sprained left knee, Lin will be placed on the 10-day injured list and infielder Eduardo Nunez will be activated from the IL in a corresponding move Saturday.
Michael Chavis has hit four home runs in 13 games with the Red Sox so far. The distances of those homers goes as follows: 374 feet, 441 feet, 441 feet, and 459 feet. His slugging percentage currently stands at .619.
Rafael Devers, meanwhile, has hits in eight of the last nine games he has played in. He is currently slashing .298/.382/.395 with 15 walks, one home run and 13 RBI this season.
Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the third game of this four-game weekend set on Saturday.
Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez is set to get the ball for Boston, while fellow southpaw Banuelos will do the same for Chicago.
Last time out at Guaranteed Rate Field on September 1st of last season, Rodriguez dazzled with 12 strikeouts and just one earned run allowed on three hits and one walk over 5.2 innings of work. The Red Sox won that game over the White Sox by a final score of 6-1.
On the other side of this lefty-on-lefty matchup, Banuelos, 29, has never pitched against the Red Sox before.
First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 7:10 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox looking to start a new winning streak.