After yet again barely holding on to take a one-run contest over the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night, the Red Sox wrapped up their seven-game homestand Thursday with a 5-0 victory over their divisional foes to improve to 53-44 on the season.
Making his 20th start of the season and fourth against the Blue Jays for Boston in this series finale was Chris Sale, who entered Thursday having allowed 14 runs (13 earned) over 14 2/3 innings in the previous three.
Turning things around for the better this time out, the left-hander tossed six scoreless frames, scattering just two hits and two walks to go along with 12 strikeouts on the afternoon.
Right from the jump, it appeared that Sale was on his game, as he punched out the side in order in a 17-pith top of the first.
The most trouble the Florida native ran into came in the top half of the fifth, when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. led things off by drawing a four-pitch walk and Brandon Drury advanced him to second on a two-out single three at-bats later.
Fortunately for Boston, Sale was able to reach back and fan Freddy Galvis on a 2-2, 96.7 MPH four-seam fastball to escape the jam.
Other than that bit of stress, Sale retired 18 of the 22 Blue Jays hitters he faced in total and capped off his stellar performance by getting Justin Smoak to softly ground out to short to put an end to the top of the sixth.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 101 (67 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler relied on his four-seamer nearly 37% of the time he was on the mound Thursday, inducing four swings and misses and topping out at 96.7 MPH with the pitch. He also induced a game-high eight whiffs with his slider, a pitch thrown eight times while Sandy Leon was behind the plate.
At long last, Sale’s streak of consecutive home starts without a win is over, as the lefty picked up his first victory at Fenway Park since July 11th of last year to improve to 4-9 on the 2019 season.
Lowering his ERA down to 4.05 on the season in the process of doing so, Sale’s next start should come Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Rays.
In relief of Sale, Marcus Walden came on in the seventh with a four-run lead to protect, and he did just that, working his way around a leadoff HBP by inducing a 6-4-3 inning-edning double play and twirling a 1-2-3 eighth.
Finally, in his second appearance since being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket on July 16th, left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez fanned a pair in a scoreless ninth inning to secure the shutout win for his side.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Blue Jays left-hander Thomas Pannone, a native of Rhode Island who had faced the Sox twice this season before Thursday and had given up four runs across those appearances.
Pannone held his own for the most part to begin things in this one, limiting the Boston bats to just two hits over the first four innings.
It wasn’t until Sam Travis reached base on a one-out double in the bottom half of the fifth when the scoring started.
That being the case because. two pitches later, Sandy Leon got the Sox on the board with an RBI single back up the middle off a 1-0, 80 MPH changeup from Pannone.
A hard–fought walk drawn by Mookie Betts put runners at first and second for Rafael Devers, who came through in the prime run-scoring spot by mashing his 19th home run of the season, a 417-foot shot that had an estimated exit velocity of 109.8 MPH off the bat, per Statcast.
That blast put Boston ahead 4-0 and ultimately chased Pannone from this contest.
Fast forward to the seventh, and Mookie Betts essentially put this game on ice, greeting new Blue Jays reliever with a 418-foot solo shot to lead off the inning.
Betts’ 14th big fly of 2019 gave the Red Sox the 5-0 advantage, and that would go on to be Thursday’s final score.
Some notes from this win:
From Red Sox Notes:
From MLB Stats:
Red Sox’ 1-2-3 hitters (Mookie Betts, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts) on Thursday: 5-for-11 with two home runs, three runs scored, and four RBI.
Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts extended their hitting streaks to 10 games on Thurday. Over that span, Betts has scored 14 runs, while Bogaerts has recorded multiple hits in his last five games.
Rafael Devers in July: .345/.419/.782 with seven home runs and 23 RBI.
Darwinzon Hernandez on Thursday: 12 pitches, eight strikes, five swings and misses, and topped out at 97.1 MPH with his four-seam fastball.
So, the Red Sox end their seven-game homestand by taking three of four from the Blue Jays. Next up, they head out for a two-city, six-game road trip before welcoming the New York Yankees into town for the first time this season.
The first stop of the road trip is Baltimore, where left-hander David Price will get the start in the opener for Boston, and fellow southpaw John Means will do the same for Baltimore.
It will be Price’s first start since all that Dennis Eckersley drama resurfaced on Wednesday, but I can’t imagine that will serve as any sort of distraction for him.
In his only start against the O’s this season back on April 14th, the 33-year-old tossed a seven-inning shutout while striking out seven to earn the win.
Over 12 career outings at Camden Yards, Price owns a lifetime 2.72 ERA and .237 batting average against in 76 total innings of work.
Means, meanwhile, was selected to be Baltimore’s lone representative in the 2019 All-Star Game.
Through 19 appearances (15 starts) this season, the 26-year-old has posted an impressive 2.94 ERA and .227 batting average against despite surrendering six earned runs over six innings in his last time out against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Three of those starts have come against the Sox, where Means is 1-2 with a 2.12 ERA over 17 total innings pitched. The Orioles are 1-2 in those games.
First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:05 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox going for their third straight win.