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Sale's 12 K's propel Red Sox to 60th victory

Lefty gets 100th win after Betts' 100th home run sets tone
Special to MLB.com

KANSAS CITY -- The Red Sox offense hit the Royals with a dynamic one-two punch on Friday and ace left-hander Chris Sale took care of the rest.

While en route to a 10-5 victory, Boston scored four runs in the first inning and four more in the second. Mookie Betts led off the game with his 100th career homer, while J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts added two-run shots in the second off Royals starter Jason Hammel. The way Sale has been pitching, an 8-0 lead after 1 1/2 innings was plenty of cushion for the first-place Red Sox, who are the first team in the Majors to 60 wins and hold a two-game lead over the Yankees in the American League East.

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KANSAS CITY -- The Red Sox offense hit the Royals with a dynamic one-two punch on Friday and ace left-hander Chris Sale took care of the rest.

While en route to a 10-5 victory, Boston scored four runs in the first inning and four more in the second. Mookie Betts led off the game with his 100th career homer, while J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts added two-run shots in the second off Royals starter Jason Hammel. The way Sale has been pitching, an 8-0 lead after 1 1/2 innings was plenty of cushion for the first-place Red Sox, who are the first team in the Majors to 60 wins and hold a two-game lead over the Yankees in the American League East.

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Video: BOS@KC: Betts cranks 100th career HR to lead off game

Sale also hit a milestone. It was his 100th career win, including 96 since 2012.

"You get four runs before you even take the mound and it's nice," Sale said. "And then we were right back on it in the second inning. You don't have to worry about being too cute or too fine. Just throw strikes."

Sale pounded the zone with a huge early lead. He finished with 12 strikeouts, while 65 of his 99 pitches were strikes over his six-inning stint.

Sale (9-4) now has 66 strikeouts while not allowing a homer in his past six starts. The only other American League pitchers with 65 or more strikeouts and no homers over a six-start span are Nolan Ryan with the Angels in 1972 and '73, Rogers Clemens with the Blue Jays in 1998, Pedro Martinez with the Red Sox in 1999 and 2001.

Boston manager Alex Cora had the luxury of keeping Sale's pitch count at 99 with a seven-run lead through six innings. He turned to the bullpen to finish out the game.

"[Sale] goes about his business and we move on," Cora said. "Whatever we can save right now is going to benefit him and us in the future. He was outstanding again."

Sale is perfectly positioned (rest wise) for a potential starting assignment in the All-Star Game presented by Mastercard. He is scheduled for one more start before the break and he would then have full rest before the Midsummer Classic on July 17 in Washington, D.C.

The Red Sox (60-29) never let the Royals up for air after the early homer barrage. Boston is 44-7 when scoring at least five runs, including 24-1 since May 16.

"All around, a good offensive night," Cora said. "We were able to drive the ball all over the place. We felt very comfortable at the plate today."

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Sale was as proud of his fielding as he was of his pitching on Friday. He ran far into foul territory to catch a popup in the sixth inning just in front of the Red Sox dugout.

Video: BOS@KC: Sale makes a fine basket catch in traffic

"It's a lot of fun," Sale said. "As pitchers, we don't get the best reputations for being athletes. I had my eye on the prize."

THORNBURG RETURNS
Reliever Tyler Thornburg worked the seventh inning. It was Thornburg's first appearance in the Major Leagues since Oct. 2, 2016, for the Brewers.

Video: BOS@KC: Thornburg records 1st out with the Red Sox

Thornburg, who was acquired in a trade for Travis Shaw in December 2016, has had a litany of arm problems, including undergoing thoracic outlet surgery in May 2017.

"There was a lot more nerves that I thought there would be," Thornburg said after allowing one hit and one run in his inning of work. "I am excited to get the first one out of the way."

UP NEXT
Red Sox left-hander David Price (9-6, 4.28 ERA) will be looking to rebound from a tough outing at 7:15 p.m. ET on Saturday in the middle game of the series at Kauffman Stadium. Price allowed eight earned runs over 3 1/3 innings against the Yankees on Sunday. Prior to that outing, he had allowed three runs or fewer in each of his previous nine starts.The Royals will counter with rookie righty Brad Keller, who has burst into prominence with a 2.09 ERA.

Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com based in Kansas City.

Boston Red Sox, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Chris Sale