NEW YORK -- With a fastball that was overpowering and a slider that was devastating, Chris Sale achieved the rarity of making the mighty Yankees look feeble on Saturday night.In a masterpiece that helped lead the Red Sox to an 11-0 thumping over their rivals -- and back into sole
NEW YORK -- With a fastball that was overpowering and a slider that was devastating, Chris Sale achieved the rarity of making the mighty Yankees look feeble on Saturday night.
In a masterpiece that helped lead the Red Sox to an 11-0 thumping over their rivals -- and back into sole possession of first place in the American League East -- Sale gave up one hit over seven electric innings, and none after Giancarlo Stanton's single in the first.
Sale got plenty of help from teammate Rafael Devers, who had a career-best 5-for-5 performance that included a first-inning grand slam against Sonny Gray that set the tone. Devers finished a triple shy of the cycle.
"Offense, and a lot of it," said Sale. "You guys saw it. We got four runs before I threw my first pitch of the night. That's nice. It shifted the entire momentum, the entire energy of the game. You could feel it even with the crowd. It was nice."
With a sizable lead in his back pocket before he even threw a pitch, Sale quickly went to work. The lanky lefty walked Austin Romine in the second, and retired the next 16 batters in succession before calling it a night. He walked one and struck out 11 while throwing 72 of his 101 pitches for strikes.
Over his last five starts, Sale has been almost untouchable, going 3-1 with a 1.03 ERA and striking out 10 in four of those outings.
"He looks like the best pitcher in the big leagues right now," said manager Alex Cora.
Not only was the performance exquisite, it put Sale in some lofty company for shutdown performances vs. the Yankees.
Sale (8-4, 2.41 ERA) is the first pitcher to combine seven innings, one hit or fewer, no runs and at least 11 strikeouts against the Yankees since the ageless Bartolo Colon (who earned his 245th win, tying him with Dennis Martinez for the most victories by a Latin American pitcher, on Saturday against the White Sox) back back on Sept. 18, 2000.
Only five MLB pitchers have combined that statline against the Yankees in the live ball era (since 1920). The only other Red Sox pitcher to do it? Ray Culp on Sept. 21, 1968.
The dominant fashion in which Sale stifled a heavy-hitting Yankees team was reminiscent of Sept. 10, 1999, when Boston's Pedro Martinez fired a complete-game one-hitter with 17 K's and didn't allow a baserunner after a solo shot by Chili Davis in the second inning.
"Outstanding again," said Cora. "Fastball command, offspeed pitches, it was a great performance. Into it from the first pitch. It was kind of cool to see him walking from the bullpen and getting booed by the fans. The fans were into it, too, and then at the end he got the last out of the seventh, and it was fun to watch."
After getting blown out, 8-1, in Friday night's opener of this three-game showdown, Sale and Devers made this the most impressive bounceback win of the season for Boston.
"Coming here, pitching in Yankee Stadium, it's probably one of the most iconic ballparks in the world," Sale said. "In the division, obviously, we're both playing hard, both kind of at the top right now. We got punched in the face last night, so you obviously want to respond well. Obviously, I can't say enough about what Devers did tonight. He basically put us on his back, and to get five hits at Yankee Stadium, that's pretty impressive. Just kind of fall in line and do your part."
Throughout his career, Sale has always done more than his part against the Yankees. In 17 career appearances against the Bombers, he has a 1.61 ERA, the lowest of any pitcher with at least 10 starts against them in the live ball era.
"At the end of the day, you just go out there and compete," said Sale. "I don't care who it is, what city you're in, what stadium, day game, lineup, it doesn't matter. Just go out there and compete. That's what I do. That's all you can do. Ball is handed to you, you do everything you can to win that game until it's taken out of your hand."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Gray actually retired the first two batters he faced, giving no indication that he would be in for such a rough night. Credit J.D. Martinez for helping to change the momentum when he worked an eight-pitch at-bat and laced an infield single. After Mitch Moreland worked a seven-pitch walk, Xander Bogaerts roped a single to right, setting up Devers for the two-out slam.
"Yeah, great at-bats," Cora said. "Fouling off pitches and hustling to get to first. Mitch put up a good at-bat, Xander on the first pitch goes the other way, and then Raffy with two strikes, he hammered that ball. It was good all around."
Sale's 16th career scoreless start with at least 11 strikeouts marks the fifth most by a Major League pitcher since 1908. Nolan Ryan (37), Randy Johnson (34), Martinez (19) and Roger Clemens (19) are the only pitchers who have done that more times.
Sale became the first Red Sox pitcher since Greg Harris on June 7, 1990, to pitch seven scoreless innings and allow one hit or fewer against the Yankees.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Hardly a game goes by in which Jackie Bradley Jr. doesn't make a tremendous catch. The one he made in the bottom of the third inning was electrifying, even by Bradley's standards. Aaron Hicks opened the inning by lacing one to deep right-center. It looked to be, at the very least, a sure double off the bat. But Bradley broke like a wide receiver and sprinted to the spot where he thought the ball would land and got there with a tremendous leaping catch near the top of the wall, snow-coning it around his glove before securing it for good.
Judging by television replays, the ball would have hit high off the wall if Bradley didn't catch up to it. Right fielder Mookie Betts was captured by the FOX microphones saying to Bradley, "You're a bad man." According to Statcast™, Hicks hit the ball with an exit velocity of 102.2 mph and a projected distance of 400 feet, and had a hit probability of 83 percent.
HE SAID IT
"It looks like the guys came out with an attitude today. It was fun to watch. There was something different with this group today here in the stadium." -- Cora
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Devers' fourth hit of the night was nearly his second homer. His double to right field in the seventh inning merited a check by the umpiring crew. Aaron Judge jumped in pursuit of the ball, which struck his glove and hit near the top of the fence before dropping back into play. After a review, the call on the field was confirmed.
Lefty David Price will make a highly anticipated start in Sunday night's finale of this three-game series when he duels Yankees ace Luis Severino at 8 ET on ESPN. Amid much controversy, Price was scratched from his May start at Yankee Stadium due to a mild case of carpal tunnel syndrome. This came after he exited his first start against New York this season after one inning due to numbness in his pitching hand. Lifetime against the Bombers, he is 15-12 with a 4.67 ERA. Since coming to the Red Sox in 2016, Price is 2-5 with a 7.42 ERA against the Yankees.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.