Nothing complicated about Chris Sale‘s strong start with the Boston Red Sox. It’s just more of the same from his time with the White Sox.
Sale struck out 12 while pitching seven solid innings and Mookie Betts hit a two-run homer, leading the Red Sox to a 6-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday.
It was Sale’s seventh straight start with double-digit strikeouts. The 6-foot-6 left-hander allowed three runs and two hits, both homers.
“It’s almost a carbon copy of each of the six previous starts, with the exception of a couple of pitches that leave the ballpark,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said.
Betts also doubled in a run in Boston’s four-run fifth inning. Jackie Bradley Jr. had two hits, including his first double of the season, and Deven Marrero drove in two runs, helping the Red Sox to their 14th win in their last 19 games against the Rays.
Sale (4-2) has struck out 10 or more in every start since he had seven Ks in his Boston debut after he was acquired in a blockbuster offseason trade with Chicago.
“Just finding a good rhythm and tempo,” Sale said. “That’s the key to pitching, going out there and trying to get in a groove. It was nice that when I hit rough patches, my team was right there to pick me up today.”
Kevin Kiermaier and Logan Morrison homered for Tampa Bay, which has dropped seven of 11.
The game was moved from 7:05 p.m. to 1:05 p.m. because of heavy rain forecasted for late afternoon into Sunday.
Pitching in his usual short sleeves on an unseasonably cool day under cloudy skies, Sale mixed his mid-90s fastball with his terrific slider and an occasional changeup for another solid outing. He got Evan Longoria looking on a 94-mph fastball in the sixth for his 10th strikeout.
Joe Kelly worked the eighth before Craig Kimbrel finished the three-hitter for his 11th save. The Rays fanned 16 times.
“Obviously today we saw a lot of power,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “The first six or seven innings they’ve got the best lefty in the American League throwing. Look, they’ve got a lot of weapons, but that’s something eventually we’ll need to overcome.”
Boston led 2-1 before Kiermaier hit a two-run shot on an 0-2 fastball with two out in the fifth.
But the Red Sox rallied in the bottom half. Marrero hit a two-run double off the Green Monster against Blake Snell (0-4). Betts followed with his RBI double, and Xander Bogaerts added a run-scoring grounder.
Snell allowed six runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings.
“When you face (Sale) and your team gives you three runs, you need to lock it down,” he said.
Rays: OF Steven Souza Jr. returned to the lineup after missing the previous four games with a bruised right thumb. … RHP Tommy Hunter, on the 10-day disabled list with a strained right calf, threw a bullpen session and felt fine.
Red Sox: DH Hanley Ramirez, who left an interleague start at first base earlier this week with a muscle spasm in his right shoulder, was out of the lineup for the third straight game, but Farrell said he could be available Sunday. … LHP Dave Price, sidelined since early spring training with a strained left elbow, is set to make a rehab start for Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday.
Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez is the only other Red Sox pitcher to reach seven straight double-digit strikeout games. He posted eight twice, his last coming in the final starts of his AL Cy Young Award-winning 1999 season.
Sale has 85 strikeouts through eight starts, tied with Randy Johnson – then with Houston in 1998 – for the most ever by a pitcher after their initial eight starts with a new team.
First base umpire Laz Diaz had to jump out of the way of a rolling bat that got away from Tampa Bay pinch hitter Brad Miller.
Rays: RHP Matt Andriese (2-1, 3.12 ERA) is set to start the series finale Sunday. He has given up three or fewer runs in his last six starts.
Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz (3-2, 5.23 ERA) looks to rebound from a rough outing when he gave up six runs in four innings during a loss Tuesday.
Republished with permission from the Associated Press.