After opening up a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals with a commanding 8-3 win on Tuesday, the Red Sox continued their recent run of success at Kauffman Stadium with another dominating performance in an 8-0 shutout victory Wednesday.
Making his 13th start of the season and 300th for his big league career for Boston was Chris Sale, fresh off an underwhelming four-run, 10-strikeout outing against the Yankees to close his month of May.
This time around though, the left-hander got his June off to a rocking start, as he completely shut the door on the Royals with nine scoreless innings Wednesday, scattering just three hits and zero walks to go along with 12 strikeouts on the night.
Right from the jump, Sale appeared to be locked in. It was a warm, humid night in KC, so perhaps that played into his stellar command of the strike zone, which we’ll touch on a little later.
Never facing more than four hitters in an inning, Sale did receive some assistance from his defense along the way, with Xander Bogaerts making a fantastic cross-body throw to get the speedy Adalberto Mondesi out at first in the first,…
….Sandy Leon ending the third by picking Whit Merrifield off at first as he was retreating towards the bag after reaching on a two-out single,…(right video, wrong caption)
…and Rafael Devers making a fine play over at third to rob Mondesi of yet another infield single in the fourth inning.
Ultimately retiring the last 15 hitters he faced beginning in the bottom half of the sixth, the real highlight showcasing just how dominant Sale was in this one came two innings later.
With the 6-7-8 portion of Kansas City’s lineup due up, the Florida native needed nine pitches, all of which were strikes, to complete his eighth frame of work, marking his second immaculate inning of the season already on June 5th, less than a month after his first against the Orioleson May 8th.
From there, Sale sat down Billy Hamilton, Terrance Gore, and Mondesi in order, and that wrapped up his first complete game shutout of the season and first complete game since last May.
Finishing with a relatively efficient final pitch count of 102 (75 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler turned to his slider more than 34% of the time he was on the mound Wednesday, inducing five swings and misses with the pitch. He also topped out at 97.7 MPH with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw 29 times and got six whiffs on with Sandy Leon behind the plate.
Finally able to notch that elusive second win while loweing his ERA below four for the first time this season at 3.84, Sale will go for win number three in his next time out against the Texas Rangers sometime next week.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Royals right-hander Jakob Junis, someone many on the team had only seen once before Wednesday.
Following a contest where they were held in check early on the night before, it was the opposite for Boston in this one, with Rafael Devers driving in his side’s first run on a first inning one-out RBI groundout to plate Mookie Betts from third for the quick 1-0 lead.
Two batters later, the red-hot Brock Holt extended his hitting streak to seven games with yet another RBI base knock, this one driving in Devers from third to make it a 2-0 game beofre the Royals had even taken their first at-bats.
Fast forward to the fifth, and Devers collected his second RBI in what would turn out to be a productive evening on a one-out, run-scoring double allowing Andrew Benintendi, who led the inning off with a two-bagger himself, to come in from second. 3-0.
After Xander Bogaerts drew a five-pitch walk, Brock Holt reached first on an infield single, and Michael Chavis fanned for the second out of the inning, Jackie Bradley Jr. came to the plate for the second time with the chance to blow this one open, and he did just that by unloading on a 1-1 slider from Junis and ripping a bases-clearing, three-run opposite field double to left field, scoring Devers, Bogaerts, and Holt to give the Red Sox a brand new six-run advantage.
And in the seventh, Devers led things off by swinging at the first pitch he saw from Jorge Lopez, and he deposited a 95 MPH fastball on the inner half of the plate and sent it 425 feet out into the center field seats. His ninth home run of the season.
Three of the next four Red Sox hitters reached base to once again fill the bases for Sandy Leon, who took responsibility for his team’s final tally of the night by plating Holt from third on an RBI sacrifice fly hit deep enough to center field. That put Boston ahead 8-0, which would go on to be Wednesday’s final score shortly thereafter.
Some notes from this win:
Since the start of May, Chris Sale is averaging 14.9 strikeouts per nine innings.
Chris Sale’s immaculate inning was the 96th in baseball’s history.
Chris Sale is the first pitcher since Lefty Grove in 1928 to throw an immaculate inning twice in the same season.
From MLB Stats:
Brock Holt’s last seven games since returning from the injured list: 11-for-25 with five RBI.
Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the series finale of this three-game set with an early start Thursday afternoon.
Right-hander Ryan Weber is expected to get the ball for Boston, while lefty Danny Duffy will do the same for Kansas City. Boston’s 12th-ranked prospect Mike Shawaryn, recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket last Thursday, is also expected to make his big league debut in a relief role.
Since joining the Sox’ starting rotation on May 23rd, we have seen the good and the bad from Weber. The 28-year-old shined in his first start against the Blue Jays, but struggled mightily against the Indians in his last time out May 29th.
Duffy, meanwhile, currently sits at 3-2 with a 4.05 ERA through seven starts for the Royals this season, but he has surrendered 10 runs, seven of which were earned, over his last two outings.
In seven career starts against the Red Sox, Duffy has posted a lifetime 6.75 ERA over 37.1 total innings pitched. He is 0-5 in those starts.
First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 1:15 PM EDT. Red Sox looking to cap off the road trip with a three-game sweep.