Red Sox 4 – Blue Jays 1: Chris Sale stays dominant

Apr 20, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale (41) delivers a pitch against Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 20, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale (41) delivers a pitch against Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

Chris Sale spun his best game in a Boston Red Sox uniform and shut down the Blue Jays, while Mookie Betts played hero in the top of the tenth to give Boston a 4-1 win.

When you come into this market as the singular piece in a trade that involves two of a team’s top-5 prospects, including the number one prospect in baseball, you’re going to come with some high expectations. It’s just part of the job. Some guys love it, other guys hate it. I think it’s safe to say that Chris Sale loves it.

It’s hard to imagine Sale outdoing any of his early performances this season. In three starts, he’s gone no less than seven innings, struck out no fewer than seven batters, and has allowed no more than two runs. With a 12.31 K/9 and 1.25 ERA prior to today’s game, he was already enjoying a stellar season and still found a way to improve upon it.

He spun eight scoreless innings and gave way to the bullpen with a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth. He struck out 13 batters overall, including four in a row between the seventh and eighth, while allowing just four hits and walking one. I’m a big fan of the game score stat to measure how well a pitcher played game-over-game and today was Sale’s best as a member of the Red Sox by far. In his first three starts he put up scores of 77, 70, and 76 respectively – today he hit 91.

Just an all around amazing game for Sale, who looks even better than advertised and is making a solid, albeit extremely early, case for the Cy Young. For as good as he was today, he just couldn’t buy the support he needed to get his second win of the season.

Offense goes quiet for second straight game

The Red Sox were shutout in yesterday’s loss, collecting just six singles along the way. They faced the de facto ace of the Blue Jays at the moment, Marco Estrada, who was able to shut them down as well. In fact, the Red Sox didn’t collect an extra base hit until Mitch Moreland doubled off Roberto Osuna in the top of the ninth. He was later brought in by Xander Bogaerts, snapping an 18 inning scoreless streak for the Red Sox.

The offense was only able to muster five hits in the first nine innings before Mookie Betts hit a bases-clearing double in the top of the tenth. It was his 100th career double and gave him eight runs batted in on the year.

Earlier in the week, I talked about how the club just wasn’t going to hit many home runs this year but will find a way to score in other ways. In the grand scheme of the season, I stand by that prediction – it would have been nice to get a home run or two to put the Jays away earlier, but at the end of the day the offense did its job. The one thing we know for sure, is that the team will find a way to stay in as many games as possible if the rely on on-base percentage and timely hits over the long ball.

Craig Kimbrel blows his first save of the season 

I don’t really get the move to go to Kimbrel over Sale for the start of the ninth at all. For one, Sale had just tossed the best starting performance the team has seen all year and was still had gas in the tank. He only sat at 102 pitches (his lowest total of the season) and was coming off an inning in which he struck out two. At least give him the start of the ninth and keep Kimbrel warm in case he runs into trouble.

Instead, Farrell sent out the closer who promptly served up a home run to the first batter he faced, Kendrys Morales. The Red Sox held their first lead of the game for what felt like a minute before the Jays’ home run horn started blaring throughout the Rogers Centre.

If the Red Sox don’t take the lead again in the next half inning, this turns into a much bigger story than it is. Thankfully, hypotheticals don’t matter and Kimbrel was able to shut the Jays down in the bottom of the tenth to earn his first win of the year and struck out the final five batters he faced.

Minor Note

  • Red Sox pitchers struck out 18 of 36 Blue Jays batters faced. Jose Bautista and Jarrod Saltalamacchia led the way with four strikeouts a piece

Next: Mookie Betts' strikeout-less streak snaps

The Red Sox are now half a game back of the Yankees and Orioles in the AL East standings. They travel to Baltimore to play the O’s next, beginning with a 7:05 game tomorrow evening.