Entering Wednesday night with a 3.5 game lead over the New York Yankees in the AL East, the Red Sox were in search of their ninth straight win and third consecutive series sweep since departing from the Bronx on July 1st. Having already manhandled the Washington Nationals and Kansas City Royals, the Texas Rangers were up next for Boston, and they did not back down in the series finale yesterday.
Making his 20th start of the season on Wednesday, which also happened to be the 200th start of his career, Chris Sale stayed red-hot in what turned out to be his 10th winning decision of the year.
Tossing seven scoreless innings last night, Sale held the Rangers to just six hits and one walk over that span while fanning 12, marking his fifth straight outing with at least 11 K’s.
Despite only having one frame in which he faced the minimum three batters, the lanky lefty’s dominance was fully on display against a team he has already shined against this season.
Besides the dozen punch-outs, what had to be most impressive about Sale’s night was the defensive clinic he put on in the sixth. After back-to-back hits from Elvis Andrus and Nomar Mazara put runners on second and third with no outs, the Florida native bounced back by striking out Adrian Beltre on five pitches, then got Rougned Odor to ground into an inning ending double play, started by none other than the ace himself to retire the side.
To cap off a stellar performance on the mound, Sale struck out the final three batters he faced in the seventh after giving up a leadoff infield single to Jurickson Profar.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 110 (80 strikes), the 29-year-old hurler went to both his four-seam fastball and deadly slider a combined 79% of the time on Wednesday, which in total, resulted in 19 swinging strikes. Out of 44 four-seamers thrown, Sale topped out at 99.7 MPH in the fifth inning, while also being responsible for seven of the 10 fastest thrown pitches all night.
As previously mentioned, Sale picked up his 10th victory of 2018 in what will be his final start before the All-Star Break. To wrap up his first half, let’s take a look at the numbers from Sale’s last seven outings via @SoxNotes:
I know I usually include this information in the end of the blog, but this was too good not to share now.
Given this recent stretch of dominance from the left hander, we’ll have to wait and see if Sale gets the nod for the American League in what would be his third straight start in the All-Star Game.
In relief of Sale, Heath Hembree got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen to start the top half of the eighth.
After striking out Ronald Guzman to lead off the inning, Elvis Andrus ripped a single to right field off the South Carolina native, and thanks to a stolen base and a wild pitch, the Rangers shortstop was able to advance to third base.
He would come in to score on a Nomar Mazara RBI single, ending the shutout and putting additional pressure on Hembree, who would later depart following a walk to load the bases with two outs in the frame.
With their lead cut to three now, Alex Cora turned to closer Craig Kimbrel for the rare four-out save opportunity. Kimbrel, who had not appeared in a game since Sunday, did walk in the second run of the inning for Texas, but escaped any further damage by striking out Joey Gallo on six pitches to finally get out of the jam.
An inning later, Kimbrel, pitching in a situation I would assume he is much more comfortable in, tossed a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out all three batters he faced to secure his 28th save and his teams 65th win of the season as well.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against the ageless wonder, Bartolo Colon for the Rangers. Colon, 45, surrendered four runs in seven innings against Boston in his only other start against them this season back on May 4th in Arlington.
Speaking of four runs, that’s exactly how many runs the Red Sox scored off of Colin last night, too.
Starting in the bottom half of the second, a leadoff single off the bat of Xander Bogaerts, followed by an awry pick-off attempt that allowed the shortstop to move up to second, put a runner in scoring position right away for the bottom half of the Red Sox lineup.
Two batters later, in what looked to be a routine pop fly from Eduardo Nunez, turned out to be so much more, as no one in the Rangers outfield could come up with the ball, which allowed Bogaerts to easily score from second, putting the first run of the night on the board.
Fast forward all the way to the fifth inning now, two straight one out hits from Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi off of Colon put the Red Sox in a prime spot to tack on some more runs, and thanks to JD Martinez, that’s exactly what happened.
In a 2-0 hitter’s count, Martinez took a 88 MPH fastball from Colon and pulled it down the third base line into the left field corner, allowing both Betts and Benintendi to score for his 78th and 79th RBI of the season.
Two batters after that, Xander Bogaerts struck once again, as he drove in Martinez from second on a RBI triple, his second of the season in as many days. With the score at 4-0 in favor of the Red Sox at this point in Wednesday’s contest, they would not have to look back en route to another sweep.
Some notes from this win:
Another one from @SoxNotes: This is the first time since 1948 the Red Sox have had multiple winning streaks of 9+ games in a single season.
The last time Chris Sale did not record 10+ K in a start came on June 13th against the Orioles in Baltimore. Since then, his K/9 is an outrageous 15.6.
Sadly, Andrew Benintendi finished second behind only the Mariners’ Jean Segura for the final spot on the AL All-Star roster.
On a more positive note, the Red Sox will be looking for their TENTH straight win tonight, as they welcome in the below average Toronto Blue Jays into town for a four-game set.
Struggling in his last two starts against the Yankees and Royals, David Price will be in search of some retribution against a former club of his in the Blue Jays.
At 42-49, Toronto has certainly been an underwhelming team this season, so hopefully they will present the opportunity for Price to head into the All-Star Break on encouraging terms.
He’ll be matched up against fellow lefty and 2018 All-Star JA Happ for Toronto, who held the Red Sox to one run in the seven innings he pitched against them on April 24th.
First pitch of the first game of the last series before the All-Star Break is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.