Chris Sale Goes 8 Scoreless With 13 Strikeouts, Red Sox Can’t Score For Him, Craig Kimbrel Blows Save, Mookie Betts Wins It With Bases-Clearing Double In The 10th

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I’m pretty much gonna say this every single time that he takes the mound, but for those “It’s only April” Boston sports fans who don’t tune into the Red Sox right away, let it be known that Chris Sale starts are appointment television and you’re missing out on something special every fifth day.

Sale has given the Red Sox at least seven innings in each of his first four starts, and pitched into the eighth inning in his second start in Detroit and again today in Toronto. In the series finale, the left-hander literally made major league hitters look like replacement players, carving up that Blue Jays lineup for 13 strikeouts over 8 scoreless innings to lower his ERA to a ridiculous 0.91 for the year. That’s kind of the way that it’s been going for Toronto to start the season, but that shouldn’t take away from how great Sale was on the mound today, and for the whole season for that matter.

Again, the Red Sox failed to score for Sale. They’re averaging less than two runs per game when he’s on the mound, which is beyond frustrating to watch. I’ll give them a pass for when they went up against Justin Verlander on Sale Day, but that’s about it. This offense is capable of much more than what they’ve given Sale through his first four starts.

I included this stat his last time out, but I’ll update it here — Sale didn’t have his first double digit strikeout game last year until August 3. He’s got three in his first four starts this year, and they’re his last three starts consecutively. He owns 38 double digit strikeout games in his career, so 8% of them have already come one month into his Boston tenure. His 42 strikeouts also lead the majors.

After eight innings, the game was still scoreless. But that changed when Mitch Moreland doubled for the 11th time this season in the top of the ninth, and scored one batter later when Xander Bogaerts drove him in with a base hit, but was thrown out at second base. It might not have been a big lead, but it was a lead nonetheless. And at 102 pitches, 80 of which were strikes, Red Sox manager John Farrell opted to go with his closer, Craig Kimbrel.

For the record, despite that Twitter rant by Harry Hair Plugs, I would’ve kept Sale in the game, at least to start the ninth. I would’ve had Kimbrel up and throwing, ready to come in if Sale had let a batter reach, but you owe it to Sale to at least let him start that inning in hopes of finishing what he started.

Before the blown save:

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After the blown save:

Think they put those hair plugs a little too deep in that big brain of yours there, Davey. But even though I wanted Sale to finish this thing out, I wasn’t flipping over my desk when I saw Kimbrel come into the game. The guy had converted his last 24 consecutive saves dating back to last year, and in his last four appearances prior to today, he worked four innings, faced the minimum of 12 batters, struck out seven of them, didn’t walk anybody and allowed just one hit.

So, essentially all the Red Sox did was replace one guy who can dominate with another guy who can dominate. He just didn’t get the job done in the ninth by allowing a leadoff, game-tying home run to Kendrys Morales. From there, he got the next batter in Justin Smoak to fly out, and then struck out the next five batters he faced to end the game.

He obviously couldn’t do that without regaining the lead, which Mookie Betts provided by hitting a bases-clearing double with the bases loaded in the top of the tenth. This is a big win for the Red Sox for a couple of reasons. Number one, and perhaps most importantly, you absolutely cannot lose a game when Sale gives you a performance like that. There’s no excuse for that. Number two, you need to beat up these Blue Jays while they’re struggling, because this isn’t going to last all season. Get the distance between you and them while you can. Step on the throat. And number three, they needed to bail Kimbrel out. That 24-game save streak was the second longest in the majors, and he’s been rock solid for them, so it was nice to see them bail Kimbrel out after a rare fuck up in a game that Sale pitched his balls off.

Final score: Red Sox 4, Blue Jays 1 — 10 innings

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