ST. PETERSBURG -- Coming off his worst start of the season, Red Sox ace Chris Sale returned to form in a dominating performance against the Rays on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field.Over eight scoreless innings, Sale fanned 13 batters and scattered two hits as the Red Sox extended their winning
ST. PETERSBURG -- Coming off his worst start of the season, Red Sox ace Chris Sale returned to form in a dominating performance against the Rays on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field.
Over eight scoreless innings, Sale fanned 13 batters and scattered two hits as the Red Sox extended their winning streak to a season-high seven games in a 2-0 win.
"I think on both sides of the ball we've been great," said Sale, who notched his 15th double-digit-strikeout game. "We're pitching well, playing really good defense and scoring runs when we need to."
The Red Sox (64-49) widened their lead to four games in the American League East over the second-place Yankees (59-52), who lost to the Blue Jays, and to 6 1/2 games over the third-place Rays (58-56). Despite the loss, Tampa Bay remained tied with the Royals for the second AL Wild Card spot.
"Couldn't quite figure him out. He's really good," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Chris Sale makes it very difficult. It's not easy. It's not an easy at-bat. It's not easy to hit at this level, and it's so added on when you're facing probably the game's best. And [then] you're facing the other game's best when he comes in in the ninth."
Cash, of course, was referring to Boston closer Craig Kimbrel, who needed just 15 pitches to fan the side en route to his 28th save.
Rays rookie Austin Pruitt turned in his second consecutive quality start, as the right-hander allowed just one run on seven hits and a walk in six innings, but he came away with his third loss.
The Red Sox scored their first run of the game in the fourth on a forceout at second base that allowed Dustin Pedroia to score from third. Jackie Bradley Jr. singled off Ryne Stanek in the ninth to drive home Xander Bogaerts and put the Red Sox up, 2-0.
"Obviously winning Game 1 was big," Bradley said. "Hopefully we can get some momentum going and it continues."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Getting on the board: Pruitt issued a leadoff walk to Pedroia to start the fourth. Andrew Benintendi followed with a single to center. One out later, the Red Sox had runners at the corners for Rafael Devers, who grounded to Pruitt. Even though Pedroia broke for the plate, Pruitt went to second hoping for the double play. But his throw to second was a little bit wild to the left field side of the bag and the Rays were only able to get the force at second. Pedroia scored to put the Red Sox up, 1-0.
"[Pruitt] got a comebacker, looked like he slipped off the mound a little bit fielding the ball and might have rushed his throw a tick," Cash said. "I don't think he slipped throwing the ball, but it looked like he rushed and that's what pulled [shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria] off the bag so he couldn't make the turn."
Bradley atones: Bradley was a little overzealous in the seventh when he tore off from first base on Eduardo Nunez's one-out fly ball to left. Bradley was rounding second base when Rays left fielder Mallex Smith made the catch, and he easily doubled-up Bradley at first for a 7-4-3 double play. Bradley made up for his blunder in the ninth when he singled with one out against the hard-throwing Stanek to drive home Bogaerts and give the Red Sox a two-run cushion.
"That was very uncharacteristic of Jackie," Red Sox manager John Farrell said of the baserunning blunder. "He always, to me, is a very heads-up baserunner, a very smart player. But in this case he lost track of the outs."
"The offense is going to get going. There's little doubt. We ran into a little bit of a buzzsaw against Milwaukee. And Chris Sale's the biggest buzzsaw. That's what he does." -- Cash, on the Rays' offense, which has been shut out in three of the team's last four games
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Rays were shut out for the third time in their past four games, dating back to Friday against the Brewers. Tampa Bay has been held scoreless four times in 24 games since the All-Star break, matching its total from 90 games in the first half. The Rays have averaged 3.29 runs per game since the start of the second half, compared to 4.76 runs per game before it.
The Rays challenged with two outs in the third when Nunez was called safe on Pruitt's pickoff attempt at first. After a review, the call was overturned and Nunez became the third out of the inning.
Red Sox: Boston will send right hander Rick Porcello to the mound to finish off a two-game set with the Rays on Wednesday. Porcello (5-14, 4.70 ERA) had one of his best starts of the season in his last outing against the Rays, allowing just one earned run on six hits over eight innings while striking out seven, but he was still credited with the loss. First pitch is slated for 7:10 p.m. ET.
Rays:Jake Odorizzi (6-4, 4.47 ERA) gets the nod in the finale of the Rays' two-game series against the Red Sox on Wednesday in a 7:10 p.m. ET contest at Tropicana Field. Odorizzi will be making his first start since going on the 10-day disabled list with a lower back strain on July 26.
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Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.
J. Scott Butherus is a contributor to MLB.com based in St. Petersburg and covered the Red Sox on Tuesday.