TORONTO -- An electric performance by Chris Sale put to rest any concerns that he is tiring down the stretch.
The ace bounced back from consecutive losses by firing a masterpiece in leading the Red Sox to a 3-0 victory over the Blue Jays on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre. Over seven-plus innings, Sale allowed three hits and no walks while striking out 11.
"That was a vintage Chris Sale outing that we've seen so many times this year," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "He was powerful, he threw a lot of strikes. Even when there were some extended at-bats with some foul balls, you get a full count, he was able to go to both his slider and his changeup a couple of times to record some outs."
Sale reached a big milestone early in the performance, becoming the fastest pitcher in history to notch 1,500 strikeouts in his career. The lefty achieved the feat in 1,290 innings, surpassing Kerry Wood, who was the previous fastest at 1,303 innings.
"That's pretty crazy. This game has been around a long time. To do that is cool," said Sale. "I appreciate it. I try not to get too caught up in it, but I definitely take a step back and look at it and appreciate it."
What Sale appreciated most was bouncing back from his last start, which was his worst of the season, when he was pounded by the Indians for seven runs over just three innings. Sale couldn't wait to get back on the hill.
"It seemed like a month ago. Any time you go out there and have a bad one, you want to get right back out there," Sale said. "As a competitor and being in sports, that's what you want to do, you want to go back out there and right the ship."
This was Sale's latest gem at Rogers Centre, where he has gone 23 innings without allowing a run and has allowed just one run in his last 33 innings in Toronto. Sale's 0.96 ERA at Rogers Centre is the lowest in history for any pitcher with at least 40 innings at the venue. In three starts against the Blue Jays this season, covering 22 innings, Sale hasn't allowed a run. This, while walking two and striking out 35.
"He has been doing that for a few years now," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "He has that reputation and he has the results. We thought we had that one shot in the eighth inning when we loaded the bases. Still two outs, not easy, but that was really our only shot. But he's good."
The victory allowed the Red Sox to expand their lead to four games over the Yankees, who were rained out vs. the Indians on Tuesday, in the American League East.
Sale pitched to a scoreless standoff with Toronto starter Brett Anderson through the first five innings, but the Red Sox gave him the minimal offense he needed when a bloop by Eduardo Nunez fell out of the reach of a diving Jose Bautista for an RBI double. According to Statcast™, Bautista had a catch probability of 95 percent on the play.
• Anderson makes strong first impression
The Red Sox added on with a solo homer by Hanley Ramirez in the seventh and an RBI single from Andrew Benintendi in the eighth.
Sale finally got in a little jam in the eighth by allowing the first two batters to reach on singles. Farrell then went to Addison Reed, who got out of the inning without allowing a run.
Craig Kimbrel came on in the ninth for his 31st save.
"I thought Reeder was huge there in that eighth inning," said Sale. "I left him in a freaking dumpster fire right there and he did a hell of a job getting us out it. And Craig did what he always does. We're getting back to where we want to be."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Rajai's smart baserunning leads to run: With the game still scoreless in the sixth, Red Sox outfielder Rajai Davis took off for a steal of second base. Anderson made a pickoff throw to first. Davis slowed up just enough at the end and dove rather than sliding with the hope that the throw by first baseman Justin Smoak would hit him rather than beating him to the base. It worked like a charm, and Davis made it in safely as the throw caromed off him. The play looked even better when Nunez stepped up next and drove him in with an RBI double. Davis added another stolen base later in the game.
"He goes first movement, and he's been in that situation many times, so he's reading where the infielder is going," said Farrell. "Completely legal, he's able to follow the eyes of the receiving infielder and he ends up taking the ball off the back. He's trying to go get his spot at the bag, and ends up getting in the line of the throw."
Hanley hammers one from 7-hole: For the second day in a row, Ramirez batted seventh. And for the second day in a row, he contributed to a victory with a key hit. This time, Ramirez smashed a solo homer over the wall in center to open up a 2-0 lead for Sale. It was just Ramirez's third homer in August, but perhaps a sign he's about to heat up.
"I'm actually having fun when it's close. This means a lot. Pressure's not on me, it's on him. He's got to make some good pitches, especially when I'm on there. I feel like I just go out there and just distract, try to do my job, hopefully get some good pitches for our hitters to hit, maybe get on second base, which I was able to do. That's just fun to me." -- Davis, on being daring on the bases
"I don't have to hit, thank God. Interleague would have been a little bit scary. You know he's good, and for the most part, unless he has a fluke outing, he's going to go out there and put up zeroes. You try and go out there and set the tone to make him go out there and put up zeroes even more. I did that … but one got away and that was all she wrote." -- Anderson, on facing Sale during his Blue Jays' debut
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With 17 double-digit strikeout games this season, Sale is well within reach of Pedro Martinez's team record of 19 in 1999. With 264 strikeouts, Sale could also surpass Martinez's club mark of 313 in that same '99 season.
The Blue Jays were shut out for the sixth time this season and dropped to 11-21 vs. left-handed starters.
Red Sox: Right-hander Rick Porcello (8-15, 4.57 ERA) takes the ball for the finale of this three-game series in hopes of recovering from a shaky outing last time out against the Orioles, when he gave up 10 hits and 11 runs (four earned) over 4 2/3 innings. Porcello had started to go on a nice run before that, winning four straight starts. First pitch is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. ET.
Blue Jays: Left-hander J.A. Happ (6-10, 4.10 ERA) will take the mound when this three-game series wraps up on Wednesday night with first pitch scheduled for 7:07 p.m. ET. Happ is coming off back-to-back rough outings that saw him allow a combined 10 runs on 17 hits over 11 outings. Prior to the recent struggles, Happ allowed just one run in three consecutive outings.
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