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Sale's 12-K gem sends Sox to 9th straight W

All-Star lefty fires 7 shutout innings; Kimbrel closes with 4-out save
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- The roars in Fenway Park were building, as everyone could sense that Chris Sale's latest overpowering masterpiece was about to be over.

Sale would later admit he felt the adrenaline of the moment. It would have been hard not to. The lefty reached back for one more unhittable pitch, and Ryan Rua waved weakly at the 98.1-mph heater to end the top of the seventh inning in what wound up to be a 4-2 victory over the Rangers on Wednesday night.

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BOSTON -- The roars in Fenway Park were building, as everyone could sense that Chris Sale's latest overpowering masterpiece was about to be over.

Sale would later admit he felt the adrenaline of the moment. It would have been hard not to. The lefty reached back for one more unhittable pitch, and Ryan Rua waved weakly at the 98.1-mph heater to end the top of the seventh inning in what wound up to be a 4-2 victory over the Rangers on Wednesday night.

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"I think anybody out there, on this team anyway, would be fired up as well. Not to mention the fact you have a sold-out Fenway Park losing their minds," Sale said. "You feel that, and I try and use that as much as I can in my favor. I like pitching here. I appreciate the fans coming out and bringing the energy with them."

Video: TEX@BOS: Sale's high-90s fastballs in 7th

That made it nine in a row for the sizzling Red Sox, who are now an MLB-best 65-29. Sale (10-4, 2.23 ERA) might even be hotter than that. In the lanky lefty's last seven starts, he is 5-1 with a 0.94 ERA. During that stretch, he has 78 strikeouts in 48 innings.

Does Sale ever recall having a stretch like this?

"If I did, I wouldn't talk about it. This is a pretty funny game, you know? Anytime you feel like you're on top of the world you get knocked right off," Sale said. "So for me, I come in, try to win games, and be a good teammate at the same time."

In this one, Sale scattered six inconsequential hits over seven scoreless innings, walking one and striking out 12. Of his 110 pitches, 80 were for strikes.

Video: TEX@BOS: Sale fans Mazara with filthy slider in 1st

The next time Sale pitches, it will be for the American League in the All-Star Game presented by Mastercard on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET on FOX).

He could not be any more dominant going into the Midsummer Classic. Sale has recorded 11-plus strikeouts with one or no walks in his last five starts, extending his own MLB record. If you can't remember the last time Sale gave up a homer, it's because he hasn't been taken deep in his past 51 innings. The Red Sox feel they are seeing the payoff of scaling Sale back in Spring Training and during the early portion of the regular season.

"He's on top of his game," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "You've got to give him credit because he's been disciplined, what we wanted to do from Day 1 of Spring Training. He was disciplined, he bought into it, he believed in it. We've been able to steal a few innings here, a few pitches there. He has a few starts that, he went over 100 [pitches], but it looks like the last seven, eight, it's been effortless.

"The ball is coming out of his hand very clean. It's been impressive. We feel that now, with this break, he's going to reset, reload, and he's going to have a good second part of the season."

Video: TEX@BOS: Martinez lines a 2-run double to left

It was an effective if unspectacular night for the Boston bats, who faced 45-year-old Bartolo Colon for the first six innings. Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi set the table with two hits each. J.D. Martinez -- the RBI machine -- knocked both of them in with a two-run double down the left-field line as part of a three-run fifth against Colon.

Video: TEX@BOS: Bogaerts crosses the dish on Odor's error

It didn't help the Rangers that they gifted a couple of runs to Boston. One of them was on an Eduardo Nunez popup that second baseman Rougned Odor couldn't come up with in the second. The other was on a fly to left-center as Joey Gallo and Delino DeShields collided trying to make the catch, allowing Xander Bogaerts to get an RBI triple.

Video: TEX@BOS: Bogaerts flares an RBI triple to left-center

The 65 wins by the Red Sox prior to the All-Star break ties the 1969 Orioles for the most in history.

"I keep saying I'm proud of them," Cora said. "They show up every day and they trust the information that is given, they keep working on their craft, they're becoming great teammates. I keep saying the baseball talk is getting louder and louder, and good teams do that."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
With the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth, Cora called on closer Craig Kimbrel in a tough spot. After Kimbrel walked Robinson Chirinos to force in a run, it was suddenly a 4-2 game with the powerful Gallo at the plate. Kimbrel did what he needed to do. In a six-pitch at-bat, Kimbrel blew a 98.5-mph fastball by Gallo to escape the jam. Kimbrel came back out for the ninth and struck out the side, picking up his 28th save.

Video: TEX@BOS: Kimbrel fans Gallo, strands the bases loaded

"I hate to put him in that corner," Cora said of Kimbrel. "He did an outstanding job. Good pitches to Gallo and then he came back and dominated. You look up there, and the WHIP and ERA is going down very, very quick. He's in a good place."

Video: TEX@BOS: Kimbrel K's Andrus to complete 4-out save

SOUND SMART
When the Red Sox score the first run of a game, the opponent has a right to be worried. The Sox are 43-4 when scoring first, the best mark in the Majors.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The one sticky situation for Sale in this one was in the sixth, when Elvis Andrus led off with a double and Nomar Mazara followed with a single, putting runners at the corners with nobody out. Sale first helped himself out by striking out Adrian Beltre, then helped himself with the glove, snagging a hot shot back to the box by Odor and firing to second base for the second out. Bogaerts made a lightning-quick turn and fired to first for the inning-ending double play.

"Better to be lucky than good sometimes. Not too far away from the hitter, so sometimes the ball catches you," Sale said. "Tried to make a good throw. Almost went a little wide left there. Luckily, Bogey is pretty darn good over there. I mean, I thought the turn at second base was the best part about that double play. He got it in and out, and if he didn't do that that quick, I don't think we get him at first. So all around, pretty good play."

Video: TEX@BOS: Sale fields comebacker to start DP in 6th

HE SAID IT
"Not at all. I think if you turn your nose up at an All-Star Game, you've got something wrong. I'm appreciative just going. I've been there a couple times before, and they're all special. I know one day I'll look back on all this and appreciate it, whether I start, don't start, make it, don't make it. I'm not too worried about that." -- Sale, when asked if he would be disappointed if he didn't start the All-Star Game

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Betts thought he had an infield hit in the sixth on a grounder deep in the hole at shortstop. Andrus ranged over to make a nice play, and then made a jump throw that one-hopped Odor, who stretched to receive the throw. Originally, baserunner Sandy Leon was called safe, as second-base umpire Todd Tichenor ruled Odor came off the bag. But the Rangers challenged the play, and it was overturned after a brief review.

Video: TEX@BOS: Andrus, Odor nab Leon on overturned call

UP NEXT
Lefty David Price had been on a nice roll until stumbling his last two starts. Price will try to get back on track Thursday night when he opens a four-game series against the Blue Jays that will lead the Red Sox into the All-Star break. Toronto could be just the opponent for Price to get his groove back. Lifetime against the Blue Jays, he is 19-3 with a 2.46 ERA. The Jays will counter with lefty J.A. Happ, who is the subject of numerous trade rumors. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Chris Sale