Red Sox vs Rays: Chris Sale picks up his first win

Apr 15, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale (right) delivers to the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 15, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale (right) delivers to the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Red Sox took the second game of their four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1.

Chris Sale picked up his first win with the Red Sox and pitching dominated as the Red Sox squeezed out a 2-1 victory over the Rays. Sale continues to not pick up much run support, but if he continues to pitch the way he did today it won’t matter. He continued his stellar play and dominated a Rays lineup that ultimately struck out 16 times on the day. He’s been the team’s best player all season and arguably pitched his best game of the season today.

While Sale was on fire, the same couldn’t be said for the Red Sox’ offence. Apart from a certain extra-base hit machine, the lineup failed to generate much – collecting just six hits.

With the win, the Red Sox improve to 6-5 (5-2 at home) and are 1.5 games back of the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East.

Chris Sale dominates… again

In my pregame article before Sale’s first start with the Red Sox, I said that he is arguably the best pitcher that the team has acquired since Pedro Martinez. Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and Curt Schilling were all great during their time and accomplished what they were paid to, but none of them carried the resume that Sale did. And for all the expectations we’ve put on him, he’s somehow managed to exceed them. The game lines from his first two starts tell you all you need to know about how good a pitcher Chris Sale is.

  • 04/05 vs Pittsburgh: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 SO
  • 04/10 vs Detroit: 7.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 10 SO

Then consider that today was arguably his best start of the three, with a final line of 7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 12 SO. Were it not for one inning in which he lost the zone and allowed his lone run, we’d be talking about a near perfect start. On the season, he now has 29 Ks in 21.2 IP, with a 1.25 ERA and 0.74 WHIP. We’re at the point where he’s basically a lock to give us seven stellar innings every five days, something the team desperately needs at this point in the season.

According to Jason Mastrodonato, Sale became the first pitcher since Roger Clemens in 2005 to begin a season with three straight starts of at least seven innings pitched, seven strikeouts, and two earned runs or less following today’s performance. Straight dominance.

All that Mitch Moreland does is collect extra-base hits

We already know that Mitch Moreland is a doubles machine, hence the nickname Mitchy Two-Bags, but what if I told you he knows how to hit the ball out of the yard too? In the second inning, Erasmo Ramirez came in after Rays starter Jake Odorizzi tweaked his hamstring and promptly gave up a solo shot to Mitchy *Four-Bags* on his first pitch of the game. The homer was just the Red Sox fifth of the season, which is the lowest in the MLB (more on the Red Sox’ anaemic offense later).

One extra-base knock wasn’t enough for him, though, as he added a double in the fourth to give him nine on the season. Moreland now leads all of baseball with ten extra-base hits through 11 games this season. The homer and double come a day after his franchise-record streak of seven straight games with a double came to an end. He would end the game three-for-four after collecting a single in the seventh.

Offense struggles again, but ultimately gets the job done

We knew that life PP (post-Papi) would be difficult, but I’m not sure that any of us thought it would take the lineup this long to adjust. As mentioned, Moreland’s second-inning homer was just the team’s fifth of the season, meaning that both Yoenis Cespedes and Khris Davis have individually hit more home runs than the entire Red Sox lineup. The lack of home runs hasn’t been the be-all, end-all as far as the team’s offense has gone thus far, but it’s certainly been an issue.

The Red Sox of years past have featured lineups full of imposing hitters that were known to inspire fear in opposing pitchers. This year, not so much. They came into today’s game ranked 16th in the majors with 44 runs scored and while they aren’t putting runs on the board at a marquee rate, they’ve been doing it when it counts. They’ve rallied to generate four blown saves off of opposing pitchers this season, a product of their league-best 16.4 percent strikeout rate. Their ability to put the ball in play has been an asset all year and was again today.

In the bottom of the seventh, they had runners on third for Chris Young who, in a fashion unfamiliar to past Red Sox teams, attempted to bunt Moreland home from third before ultimately taking a walk. Sandy Leon was eventually able to drive in the go-ahead and eventual winning run, with a broken-bat fielder’s choice.

Two runs were all that they needed today, but Chris Sale won’t be on the mound to spin a gem every game and eventually they’ll need to regain the dynamic touch that carried the club last season.

Minor Notes

  • Matt Barnes pitched a scoreless eighth despite allowing two walks, inducing a double-play to get out of the jam
  • Craig Kimbrel pitched a perfect ninth to collect his fourth save of the season
  • David Price spoke to the media prior to the game and said that he intends to face hitters in a simulated game by next week

Next: The crazy 88's of the Red Sox pitching staff

The Red Sox go again tomorrow at 1:05 as Drew Pomeranz looks to follow up his season debut and pick up his second win of the season. He’s 2-1 (five games) vs the Rays in his career with a 2.31 ERA.