After splitting the first two games of this three-game series against the New York Mets over the last two days, the Red Sox looked to head into an off day with their second consecutive series victory and 103rd win of the season on Sunday.
Making his 25th start of the season and second since returning from the disabled list on Tuesday, Chris Sale took the mound at Fenway Park for his second ever appearance against the Mets.
Pitching three full innings in this one as planned, the left-hander held New York scoreless while allowing just one hit and zero walks to go along with a single strikeout on the afternoon.
Facing the minimum nine batters thanks to a caught stealing in the top of the second, Sale needed 42 pitches (27 strikes) to complete the three frames of work.
Out of those 42 pitches, the Florida native threw 20 four-seam fastballs, 11 sliders, seven changeups, and four two-seam fastballs, which resulted in a total of six swinging and eight called strikes.
He also topped out at 96.8 MPH with that four-seamer in the first inning.
Lowering his ERA on the season down to an American League best 1.92 with this solid performance to wrap up the weekend, Sale will look to ramp it up to four innings in his next time out, which will come against the Cleveland Indians in Cleveland this upcoming Friday.
In relief of Sale, the Red Sox bullpen was responsible for the final six innings of Sunday’s win, but nothing certainly came easy for them.
Entering this contest first with a fresh three-run lead to protect, Hector Velazquez, who was scratched from his previous start with illness on Friday, tossed a scoreless fourth inning.
Drew Pomeranz was next up, and after retiring all three batters he faced in the fifth, surrendered the first two Mets runs of the day in the sixth while recording the first two outs of the inning.
Heath Hembree cleaned up Pomeranz’s mess in that top half of the sixth, but failed to record an out in the seventh by walking one and hitting another.
Joe Kelly, like Hembree, did manage to clean up a bit of a sticky situation in his 69th relief appearance of the year, but not before allowing one of the inherited runners to score on a two out Amed Rosario RBI single.
From that point on, Brandon Workman worked a scoreless eighth inning to keep this thing tied at three runs a piece, and after his team jumped out to a 4-3 advantage in their half of the eighth, Steven Wright came in and picked up his first career save with a clean ninth.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against arguably the best pitcher in the National League in the Mets’ Jacob deGrom, who entered Sunday with a miniscule 1.71 ERA over 29 starts this season.
After failing to reach base once through the first two-plus innings of this one, it was Rafael Devers who got a huge bottom of the third started by ripping a one out single back up the middle to center field.
One Christian Vazquez single later that allowed Devers to advance all the way to third thanks to a little hit-and-run action, Mookie Betts drove in the first run of the afternoon with a 380 foot sacrifice fly to center field that plated Devers and made it a 1-0 game.
With one out and one runner on, the red-hot Brock Holt came to the plate, batting in the two-hole for a change, and came through with yet another game-changing hit, a two-run home run sent 402 feet to the Red Sox bullpen.
For Holt, just his fifth big fly of the season, and for deGrom, just the 10th homer he has given up all season.
A las, that was all the Red Sox could get off of New York’s ace, and it was not until the eighth when they would get on the scoreboard again.
Tied at 3-3 now, Andrew Benintendi came to the plate with one out, Tzu-Wei Lin at third following a leadoff double, and Seth Lugo on the hill for the Mets.
On the second pitch he saw from Lugo, Benintendi al but sealed the deal in this one with an RBI sac fly to center that was more than good enough to plate Lin from third for what would end up being the game-winning run.
Some notes from this 4-3 win:
Injury-related: Mookie Betts had to leave this game in the sixth inning with left side soreness after making an awkward throw home in right field, but he should be good to DH in New York on Tuesday, per Alex Cora.
Through 150 games, the Red Sox have a winning percentage of .687.
Brock Holt is hitting .400 with two home runs and seven RBI in his last five games.
Chris Sale has not surrendered an earned run in his last 25 innings pitched, which dates back to July 11th.
The magic number for the Red Sox to clinch their third consecutive American League East title now stands at two games, meaning they could be crowned division champs at Yankee Stadium for the second time in the last three seasons.
All that is needed for that to happen is one win in the team’s next three games against the Yankees, which will take place after an off day on Monday.
Starting pitching matchups for that upcoming series go as follows:
9/18: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (5-7 4.22 ERA) vs. LHP JA Happ (16-6 3.75 ERA)
9/19: LHP David Price (15-6 3.42 ERA) vs. RHP Luis Severino (17-8 3.46 ERA)
9/20: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (13-4 3.53 ERA) vs. RHP Masahiro Tanaka (12-5 3.47 ERA)
The Yankees have lost six of their last ten games.
First pitch of the series opener in the Bronx is scheduled for 1:05 PM ET Tuesday, weather permitting.