Chris Sale was disgusted with himself the last time he took the mound. Unable to complete the fifth inning last Monday against Houston, he put the Red Sox bullpen in a bind and ultimately got reliever Kyle Barraclough thrown to the wolves.
This time Sale still struggled to keep his pitch count in check, but when the chips were down he was able to finish his outing strong.
Sale pitched five shutout innings to help the Red Sox beat the Kansas City Royals 7-3 in Sunday’s series finale. His command was spotty, throwing only 64 of 100 pitches for strikes while walking two, but he also only allowed two hits and struck out five in an otherwise strong performance.
Kansas City rarely threatened while Sale was on the mound, spreading its four baserunners off the lefty over four separate innings. As his pitch count ticked upwards Sale did walk Dairon Blanco after getting two quick strikeouts, but after a brief pep talk by Cora he came back, hit 97 mph on the radar gun and then got Maikel Garcia to ground out to end the fifth.
At the time Sale left the Red Sox already had a 3-0 lead courtesy of a three-run home run by Masataka Yoshida in the top of the fourth. Future Hall of Famer Zack Greinke, who pitched 3.2 innings following an opener, didn’t have it Sunday but was able to avoid disaster outside of the Yoshida bomb.
Regardless, the Red Sox had little trouble against the woeful Royals bullpen.
Adam Duvall immediately stretched Boston’s lead with a towering solo shot to left field to lead off the sixth, and the Red Sox added two more runs in the seventh. Rob Refsnyder first scored Connor Wong on an infield grounder that Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. threw into the stands, and then Justin Turner hit a sacrifice fly to score Refsnyder.
Rafael Devers finished off the scoring in the ninth, capping off a nine-pitch at bat with an RBI double to left.
Kansas City scored its first run in the bottom of the sixth on a Salvador Perez RBI single off Mauricio Llovera. John Schreiber and Brennan Bernardino then pitched a pair of scoreless innings before Kenley Jansen ran into some trouble in the bottom of the ninth.
The Red Sox closer, who has only pitched once in the past 11 days, struck out the first man he faced but then allowed three straight hits, including a two-run single by Blanco. That brought up the top of the Kansas City lineup, but Jansen kept things from getting dicier by forcing Garcia and Witt to fly out to end the game.
With the win Boston clinches the series victory and improves to 71-66 on the year. The Red Sox now head to St. Petersburg to open a crucial three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays. First pitch on Monday is scheduled for 4:10 p.m.
Verdugo leaves game
While cutting off Salvador Perez’s RBI single in the right field gap, Alex Verdugo appeared to tweak his hamstring and came out of the game with the trainer shortly afterwards.
The initial word from the club was left hamstring tightness, and Cora said afterwards Verdugo is day-to-day.
Left-hander Brennan Bernardino was activated from the COVID-19 list ahead of Sunday’s game, making his return just shy of a week after initially going down last Monday. He pitched a scoreless eighth inning in his first outing back since Aug. 26.
In a corresponding move, right-hander Garrett Whitlock was placed on the bereavement list.