Chris Sale was good Monday night against the Minnesota Twins, but he wasn’t great.
The Boston Red Sox left-hander tossed 6 1/3 innings, allowing only one run on four hits with nine strikeouts. Sale didn’t face too much trouble in his outing, but a rocky start to the seventh inning forced him out of the ballgame.
Heath Hembree followed Sale, and induced an inning-ending double play to get out of the seventh. Matt Barnes then hurled a flawless eighth frame in which he struck out the side, and Craig Kimbrel nailed down the victory for his 21st save of the season to ensure Boston’s 4-1 victory.
After the game, Sale had high praise for Boston’s relief pitchers, not just for their performance against the Twins, but for their whole body of work this season.
“You saw what those guys did tonight,” Sale said, as seen on NESN’s Red Sox postgame coverage. “Heater (Hembree) came in and got a huge double play, Barnes getting back to what we know he can do and Craig just continuing to go and do what he does. They work hard for us, they’ve been nails. Very confident with the guys we have down there.”
Sale made it clear he hates to have the ball taken out of his hand, but acknowledged it probably was the right move by Red Sox manager John Farrell to tap into the bullpen with one out in the seventh.
“Never,” Sale said when asked if he wanted to leave the game. “John’s in a tough decision there. Do I want to finish the inning? Yeah. But I also don’t want to give up a hit or walk a guy. That’s on me. There’s a couple things I could have done to extend my outing, but in the end it worked out.”
It certainly did work out, as the Red Sox’s victory ended their two-game skid and kept the club atop the American League East standings.
Here are some other notes from Red Sox-Twins.
— Boston’s stymying of Minnesota marked the 12th time this season it has held an opponent to one run or fewer. The Red Sox’s starters also have allowed three runs or less in each of the team’s last eight games.
— Mitch Moreland blasted a home run in the first inning, his third home run in as many games. It’s the second time the Red Sox first baseman has accomplished the feat this season.
— Sale recorded his 14th quality start in just 16 outings this season. His nine punchouts improved his season total to a major league-leading 155, 29 more than any other pitcher in the AL.
— Kimbrel converted his 29th consecutive save at Fenway Park, tying the venue’s all-time record set by Tom Gordon from 1998 to 1999.
— Mookie Betts went 2-for-4 with two singles in the game. He leads Major League Baseball with 88 multi-hit games since the start of last season.
— Andrew Benintendi racked up a single in the first inning, extending his hitting streak to seven games, which ties a career high.
— Sandy Leon improved his career caught stealing average to 40.9 percent, which is the highest among active catchers.
— Tzu-Wei Lin singled in his first career MLB plate appearance and became just the eighth player born in Taiwan to record a hit in a major league game.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
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