BOSTON (CBS) — As we get further into the season, Chris Sale is looking more and more like his dominant self.
The Red Sox lefty twirled 7.2 strong innings against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night, allowing just two runs (one earned) on four hits while striking out nine in Boston’s 4-2 victory. His fastball was consistently popping between 96-98 MPH and his slider was as devastating as its been all season.
“I felt loose, obviously having an extra day and was able to get some work in,” Sale said after the victory. “Extra day of work and also an extra day of rest. Mixing some things up, Sandy [Leon] was nails back there again, mixing them, in and out, up and down. I felt good the whole time through.”
Even though the Rays put on a pair of runners in the first inning, Sale looked locked in from the get-go. He struck out two Rays in the inning, getting the second batter of the game, C.J. Cron, on just three pitches. Cron went down whiffing at a 98 MPH fastball, the first of eight batters Sale set down swinging.
Matt Duffy followed with a walk, one of two free passes issued by Sale, and went to third on a single by catcher Wilson Ramos. But Sale struck out rookie Willy Adames on a 97 MPH in his first Major League at-bat, a nice “Welcome To The Majors” moment for Tampa’s top prospect.
Sale struck out four batters on just three pitches, mixing in his high heat and that overwhelming slider as his finishing moves. He faced just three batters in two different innings and four batters in three others. His only blemish of the evening was a fourth-inning solo shot by Adames, who became the first rookie to hit his first Major League homer off Sale. Tampa scored their other run off a sac fly in the fifth inning, which may have never happened if it wasn’t for a Leon passed ball a few pitches prior.
Sale left after 112 pitches, getting Cron to pop out after a nine-pitch at-bat in the bottom of the eighth. He left to a standing ovation from the small crowd inside Tropicana Field consisting mostly of Red Sox fans.
It’s the seventh time this season that Sale, now 5-1, has allowed one run or fewer. He hasn’t surrendered more than three runs in any of his 11 starts, and owns a 2.17 ERA for the year.