BOSTON -- Chris Sale was very good again. The Red Sox offense was back, too.
Making just his second big league appearance of the season after recovering from Tommy John surgery, Sale (2-0) pitched five scoreless innings, allowing five hits while striking out five and walking one as the Red Sox banged out six doubles and cruised past the Rangers 6-0 on Friday night in front of 30,012 fans at Fenway Park.
Coming off a sweep at the hands of the rival Yankees in a three-game series in New York during which they scored just five runs, it was just what the Sox needed: a last-place Rangers team and Sale on the mound at Fenway to bring some energy.
“It’s everything to me,” Sale said of snapping a three-game losing streak. “I understand where I'm coming from, the last couple of years. I had surgery and I’m coming back.
“Now I’ve got two starts in the big leagues. I’ve got a job to do. I’ve got to win games. Obviously, we didn’t play well in New York. That series got away from us. To be able to post up and get us on the right track, that’s my job. That’s what I’m supposed to do.”
Sale and four relievers combined on the seven-hit shutout, with Matt Barnes striking out the side in the ninth.
“Obviously, his whole career he’s been a stopper,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “He’s been an ace. He’s had a marvelous career. That’s what we kind of needed tonight. We had a rough series. It was nice to come back with a win.”
The Red Sox took charge early, opening a 2-0 lead for Sale. He did the rest, relying on a fastball that topped out at 95.9 mph when he needed a big out.
“I think I was a little bit more consistent today,” Sale said. “I had a couple of pitches I was fighting with myself. It seemed like the more the game went on, it was more in sync. I had a little more life at the end.”
Xander Bogaerts hit a solo homer and Alex Verdugo ripped a two-run double in a three-run fifth.
That was it for Sale.
“To be honest with you, I’m never satisfied,” he said. “I wanted to go six innings tonight. If I went six, I wanted to go seven. Appreciation, yeah, I appreciate where I’m at.”
When the 32-year-old Sale walked out to the bullpen about 30 minutes before his first pitch of the game, it certainly wasn’t as electric as it was last Saturday afternoon against the Orioles, when fans were clamoring to get a glimpse, many taking photos and videos and cheering nearly every warmup pitch with support before his initial start since the surgery on his 31st birthday, March 30, 2020.
But when Sale arrived to start his pregame routine Friday, things certainly perked up in the bleachers.
Like his first start when the Sox belted five homers in a 16-2 rout over the Orioles, Boston’s bats picked up, too. Last week, Sale gave up just two runs -- both on solo homers -- over five innings, striking out eight with no walks in an 89-pitch outing.
Once he was done in the ‘pen on Friday, it was a slow walk to the dugout on a humid night for his second start since Aug. 13, 2019.
And 71 pitches later, Sale had his second straight victory -- something that could go a long way in building confidence for him and the Red Sox if they make a late-season push behind their ace.
“I’m glad that it’s sink or swim,” he said. “If I don’t pitch well, it’s not going to help. I have to pitch well for us to succeed.”