MINNEAPOLIS -- When Chris Sale pitches this season, the Red Sox are a .500 team. This is no fault of Sale's.
The left-handed ace was electric again on Tuesday night at Target Field, but the Red Sox lost, 6-2, in the series opener against the Twins.
Sale (2.74 ERA) took a no-decision, but he deserved better, allowing two runs on three hits over seven innings, while walking one and striking out 11.
"It's part of it," Sale said. "I think you can look at Jacob deGrom and probably feel even worse for him. It happens. I'm not going to hang my head about it."
The Red Sox left 11 runners on base, and the Twins took control of the game in the eighth, scoring four runs against relievers Robby Scott and Joe Kelly.
"We need to do a better job with men in scoring position," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "It seems like we've been struggling lately in those spots."
In the 102 innings Sale has pitched this season, the Red Sox have scored just 53 runs. The club is 8-8 in Sale's 16 starts.
"Yeah, I was just talking to somebody, and that's the way the game goes," Cora said. "You see Eduardo [Rodriguez], and we're 12-1 [with him], so it evens out. One thing about [Sale], he controls what he can control, and he's showing up every day whenever he pitches and gives us a chance to win. We have to do a better job in those cases of scoring runs for him."
Sale exited after 105 pitches, at which point things deteriorated rapidly for the Red Sox. Scott, who was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket earlier in the day, was brought in to face No. 9 hitter Ryan LaMarre, and then two lefties at the top of the order in Joe Mauer and Eddie Rosario.
Scott walked LaMarre and hit Mauer. After he retired Rosario on a flyout to center, Cora went to Kelly. Eduardo Escobar, who came through earlier in the game with a two-run double off Sale, ripped another double against Kelly, with a pair of runs scoring on the play to make it 4-2.
"Of course coming into that situation, any situation, you can't walk the leadoff guy there," Scott said. "And then the pitch to Mauer, I felt like we had him leaning over looking outer half, trying to go that way, and I thought, 'We can get a fastball up and in.' Flipped it up in there and flipped his jersey."
Sale was untouchable early, retiring the first 14 batters he faced. When the Twins got their first hit, it was an infield bleeder down the third-base line by Ehire Adrianza with two outs in the fifth.
Twins starter Jose Berrios lived up to his end of the duel, as the game was scoreless until Rafael Devers belted a solo shot to right with two outs in the sixth. It was the second consecutive game Devers has gone deep, and this one traveled a Statcast-projected 418 feet.
In Sale's last three starts, he's given up four runs in 21 innings, striking out 30 and holding opponents to a .151 average.
"I feel like I've been able to put it together the last few times out," Sale said. "A lot of work went into that, too, not just from myself, but [pitching coach] Dana [LeVangie], [bullpen coach Craig Bjornson] and everybody involved. There are a couple things we have to work on and get through. Collectively, as a group, we've been able to find it and keep rolling with it."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Early squander: The way Sale was pitching early on, a few early runs could have gone a long way. The Red Sox had a good chance to get on the board in the fourth, when J.D. Martinez and Mitch Moreland led off with singles. But Devers struck out, Eduardo Nunez popped up and Sandy Leon flied out to end that threat.
"Devers swung at a pitch up in the zone, and Eduardo, he chased, he was looking for a breaking ball and he didn't square it up. In those situations, we have to do a better job," Cora said. "We had our chances. [Berrios] is one of the best pitchers in the league, so whenever you have a chance, you have to cash in."
Sale has nine or more strikeouts in nine of his 16 starts this year. The only pitcher in the Majors with more starts with nine or more K's is Nationals ace Max Scherzer, who has done it 12 times.
HE SAID IT
"I know these guys in here want to win. I know they're not doing anything different on my day. Maybe I'll bring popsicles or something for the boys." -- Sale, taking his lack of run support in stride
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
It seemed the Twins had a sure sacrifice fly when Adrianza hit a 317-foot fly ball to center with one out in the eighth. But Jackie Bradley Jr. camped under it and made one of the strongest throws you'll see, a 103.4 mph laser to nab Robbie Grossman at the plate.
It was the fourth-hardest throw by an outfielder tracked by Statcast™ since the system began in 2015. The Twins issued a challenge, saying that catcher Leon illegally blocked the plate. However, the replay confirmed that the play was clean, and the Red Sox had their double play, the third started by Bradley this season. More >
Left-hander David Price, who has been rolling for more than a month, will try to keep his momentum when he pitches on Wednesday night against the Twins at 8:10 p.m. ET. Price is 6-0 with a 2.64 ERA in his last seven starts, all of which the Red Sox have won. The Twins counter with right-hander Lance Lynn.