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Dominant Sale fans season-high 12 in victory

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

ARLINGTON -- Red Sox ace Chris Sale had mastered the art of the strong start this season but was lacking the utter dominance his reputation has been built on. That all changed on Sunday afternoon when the lanky lefty put on a pitching clinic in leading his team to a 6-1 victory over the Rangers at Globe Life Park.

Over seven innings, Sale (3-1, 2.02 ERA) recorded a season-high 12 strikeouts and one walk. He allowed four hits and just one run, which came on a homer by Ryan Rua in the seventh.

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ARLINGTON -- Red Sox ace Chris Sale had mastered the art of the strong start this season but was lacking the utter dominance his reputation has been built on. That all changed on Sunday afternoon when the lanky lefty put on a pitching clinic in leading his team to a 6-1 victory over the Rangers at Globe Life Park.

Over seven innings, Sale (3-1, 2.02 ERA) recorded a season-high 12 strikeouts and one walk. He allowed four hits and just one run, which came on a homer by Ryan Rua in the seventh.

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"It seems like he wanted to stop all the talk about not throwing hard anymore," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "Change of speeds, good changeup, good slider that was on top of hitters. He was elevating the fastball. His velocity was up there, and that was a great performance."

This was Sale at his finest. His slider regained lethal status, inducing 13 of his season-high 23 swinging strikes. Sale's four-seamer averaged 96.6 mph, and he threw one pitch at 99.2 mph.

"Yeah, I was able to get a pretty good feel for it," Sale said of his slider. "[Assistant pitching coach Brian Bannister] was in here early and saw something and he was trying to tell me how to correct that, and after that, it was pretty good."

Tweet from @RedSox: #SaleDay final line: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 12 Ks👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/bnvSVrKbeA

The Red Sox gave Sale plenty of support on a day he didn't need much. J.D. Martinez went 2-for-4 with a solo homer to raise his average to .349. Backup catcher Sandy Leon belted a three-run homer to break it open in the sixth. Mitch Moreland, who seems to contribute every time he starts, finished 2-for-4 with an RBI double against his former club.

"He's a good hitter. He proved it last year. He had a great season," Cora said of Moreland. "That's one of the reasons we brought him back. You take a look at what he's doing right now -- and not only on the field but in the clubhouse, what he brings to the equation -- it's great. He's putting pressure on the manager to play more. I like that."

Video: BOS@TEX: Martinez skies a solo homer to right field

The only down note for Boston in this one was star right fielder Mookie Betts leaving the game in the bottom of the second inning with a right shoulder contusion he sustained when he was hit by a throw in the first.

After losing the opener in Texas on Thursday night, the Red Sox came back to win the next three games and take an MLB-best 25-9 record to New York for a three-game series against the torrid Yankees, which starts on Tuesday.

Sale expressed disappointment that he won't get the chance to pitch in that big series, but he heads to the Big Apple secure in the knowledge that he has regained his best pitch -- the slider.

"It's probably been the main concern," Sale said. "Like I said, early on, it wasn't where we wanted it to be. With [pitching coach] Dana [LeVangie] and Banny looking at some video -- we actually looked at a lot of video -- and I kind of got back to where we wanted to be with stiff front side and release point. A couple of other things, couple of other cues that get me where I needed to be, so without them, I'd probably still be lost."

Video: BOS@TEX: Sale catches sharp comebacker in the 2nd

It says something about the standards Sale has set for himself that, for him, "lost" still amounted to a 2.14 ERA entering Sunday's start.

"He was on point today," Moreland said. "He had everything working. It's nice to play behind him on days like that, especially when you get down to Texas and it's a little bit warmer. Advantage, Chris Sale. He did a great job from the first pitch."

Video: BOS@TEX: Moreland opens scoring with a double

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Everyone in the dugout was ecstatic to see Leon hit his first homer of the season. The catcher has struggled at the plate, but he is widely respected for his selfless attitude and ability to handle the pitching staff. Leon's homer off former batterymate Doug Fister traveled a projected distance of 398 feet, according to Statcast™, and gave Sale a 5-0 lead.

"It seems like he saw the ball well against Doug," Cora said. "At one point, I was wondering if catching him or whatever, if it helps you. I don't know if that's the case, but he laid off some good pitches and he put a great swing on it. You've got to give him credit, man. He works and he understands the situation. He's not playing as much, but whenever he's playing, he's doing the job behind the plate."

Video: BOS@TEX: Leon launches a 3-run jack to right-cneter

MOOKIE BANGED UP
The injury to Betts took place when he was advancing from first to second on a grounder by Andrew Benintendi. The throw by first baseman Ronald Guzman struck him on the right shoulder blade and caused a numbing sensation in his right hand. It was Cora's choice to take him out of the game.

"He's OK," Cora said. "The ball hit him in the shoulder. He didn't feel great, so I took him out. It makes sense for us. Day-and-a-half off and it should be something day to day. Hopefully ready for Tuesday." More >

Video: BOS@TEX: Guzman gets the out, Betts later exits

SOUND SMART
About to face their biggest road test of the season at Yankee Stadium, the Red Sox are 5-1 in road series (9-2 overall) this season.

HE SAID IT
"It'll be fun. They're rolling, we're catching our stride again, and it'll be fun. That'll be our first time going to New York, so I wish I was getting the ball in one of those games, but there's only so much you can do."
-- Sale, on the upcoming showdown at Yankee Stadium

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Moreland is getting it done with his bat and glove. The Rangers had a chance to load the bases with two outs in the third when Jurickson Profar, up with two on, was called safe at first on a ground ball to third baseman Rafael Devers. However, after initially being pulled off the bag by the wide throw, Moreland was able to maneuver his foot back to the bag just before Profar crossed first. Profar was initially called safe, but the Red Sox challenged it, and it was overturned to end the bottom of the third inning.

Video: BOS@TEX: Devers throws out Profar on overturned call

UP NEXT
After a day off in New York on Monday, the Red Sox open a three-game series against the blazing-hot Yankees on Tuesday night in the Bronx. The Yankees have won 15 of their last 16 games, a streak similar to the one the Red Sox had at the start of the season when they captured 17 of 19. Lefty Drew Pomeranz pitches the opener for Boston. He will be opposed by Yankees ace Luis Severino. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 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, Mookie Betts, Sandy Leon, Chris Sale