Boston Red Sox

Chris Sale blanks Angels for 6 innings in Red Sox 6-2 win

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Chris Sale blanks Angels for 6 innings in Red Sox 6-2 win

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A pitcher dreams of starts like this, his team giving him a big early lead before he even throws a pitch. Of course, teams dream of having a starting pitcher like Chris Sale.

The two came together in brilliant fashion on a warm Friday night, with the Boston Red Sox scoring five times in the top of the first and Sale throwing six scoreless innings in a 6-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.

"We spotted him five runs in the first inning," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "I thought we did an outstanding job of stringing hits together, hitting pitches where they were located and using the whole field."

And then turning it over to Sale, who continued his dominating season.

Sale (12-4) allowed four hits and struck out nine to push his major league-leading total to 200. He walked one and lowered his American League-best ERA to 2.48.

"I've not been around a pitcher who's had that kind of focus," Farrell said. "His strikeout capability is certainly unique. He's an elite pitcher. And it's not just with one pitch. It's three different ones he can get strikeouts with."

He became just the fourth pitcher to reach the 200-strikeout mark in 20 or fewer starts, joining Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson (three times) and Pedro Martinez.

"It's cool," Sale said. "I appreciate it. I'm not the biggest fan of looking at stuff like that. Those are things for the offseason or to tell my grandkids."

Sale has won 11 of his last 13 decisions. He improved to 6-0 against the Angels with a 1.23 ERA in seven starts (nine games).

"He's really deceptive, uses both sides of the plate and has really good secondary stuff," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

Boston jumped on erratic Angels starter Ricky Nolasco (4-11) in the first, with six of its first seven batters collecting a hit. Nolasco went four innings and allowed all six runs on nine hits and a walk.

The Angels avoided a shutout when Martin Maldonado hit a solo home run off reliever Kyle Martin in the seventh. It was his 11th homer of the season.

SAVING CATCH

Jackie Bradley Jr. made a tremendous, leaping catch as he flew into the center-field wall on a drive by Yunel Escobar to lead off the bottom of the first inning.

"Jackie made a spectacular catch going up against the wall, as he's done so many times," Farrell said. "That was a play he was all out, right to the point of impact. Thankfully there's padding there."

All Sale could do was be appreciative.

"It seems like once he makes a great catch, it's like, OK, that's the best catch," he said. "Then he makes another and then that's the best one. It just seems like he's always raising the bar. It's fun to watch."

NOLASCO STRUGGLES

The Angels are 5-15 in games Nolasco has started this season, and 42-36 all the others.

"All you can do is wear it," Nolasco said.

DEFENSE TOO

The Red Sox are not the only team getting some strong defensive play.

The Angels have now gone 14 consecutive games without committing an error, matching the franchise record.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: Right-hander Joe Kelly (strained left hamstring) remained in Boston and threw long-toss. ... With Eduardo Rodriguez (partial shoulder dislocation) back, right-hander Doug Fister is moving to the bullpen. In five games (four starts), Fister is 0-4 with a 7.89 ERA.

Angels: Right-hander Matt Shoemaker (forearm strain) threw lightly for the first time in two weeks. "He's taking baby steps right now," Scioscia said. "We won't have a read on him for another seven to 10 days." ... Left-hander Tyler Skaggs (right oblique strain) is scheduled to throw four innings Saturday for Triple-A Salt Lake. ... Outfielder Shane Robinson left the game after four innings with upper back spasms.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Left-hander David Price (5-2, 3.39 ERA) looks to keep his strong recent stretch going Saturday against the Angels. In his last three starts, he has allowed just two earned runs (20 innings).

Angels: Right-hander JC Ramirez (8-8, 4.54) is scheduled to make his 19th start of the season. In five career games against the Red Sox (one start) he is 1-0 with a 0.90 ERA. He last started a game on June 14.

Drellich: In appreciation of a peculiar, throwback Red Sox offense

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Drellich: In appreciation of a peculiar, throwback Red Sox offense

BALTIMORE — On the night Major League Baseball saw its record for home runs in a season broken, the team with the fewest homers in the American League took a scoreless tie into extra innings.

In the 11th, the Red Sox won in a fashion they hadn’t in 100 years.

Just how peculiar was their 1-0 win over the Orioles, the AL leaders in homers? The lone run came when Jackie Bradley Jr. bolted home on a wild pitch from Brad Brach. So? So, the Red Sox won, but did not officially record a run batted in on the day MLB’s greatest league-wide power show to date was celebrated.

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The last time the Sox won an extra-inning game without recording an RBI was a century ago, in 1918. Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth played in that game. 

It’s a weird time for the Sox offense. A weird year, really. Because the Sox are in first place, and have been, but they don’t drive the ball. Their .408 slugging percentage was the fifth lowest in the majors entering Tuesday.

They’re also in the bottom third for strikeouts, the top five in steals and the top 10 in batting average (.260). That's the description of an effective National League offense. An old-school, move-the-line group that makes more contact than all but four teams in the majors. 

The rest of baseball is switching to golf swings to pound low-ball pitching. The Sox look like they could be on a black-and-white newsreel shuffling around the bags.

Should you have faith in that method come the playoffs? There's reason to be dubious.

But the construction should be appreciated for the sake of disparity, both in the context of recent Red Sox history and the sport’s home-run renaissance.

Alex Gordon of the Royals hit the season’s 5,964th home run Tuesday, besting the record mark set in 2000 — dead in the middle of the steroid era.

At present, the Sox lineup is particularly out of sorts because of injuries. Dustin Pedroia should be back Wednesday, but was out of the starting lineup Tuesday. Hanley Ramirez isn’t starting either. Eduardo Nunez’s rehab from a knee injury is coming along, but may not move quite as quickly as expected.

Even if all are healthy, this group remains strange. Because the Sox offense looks so different than what people expect of the Sox, the opposite of what people expect of an American League East-winning team. The opposite of what people expect of any American League team, period.

The arms are the driving force for the Sox, and must remain so if they’re to be successful in October. The sturdiness of the bullpen, tired but resolute, cannot be understated when the workload is extended in September. No team can go 15-3 in extra-inning games without stellar and timely pitching.

But the entirety of pitching coach Carl Willis’ staff has been wonderful. Drew Pomeranz didn’t have his best fastball velocity on Tuesday and was still effective in 6 1/3 innings.

The outfield play can’t be overlooked either. Bradley’s a brilliant patrolman in center field and his leaping catches to rob home runs — he took one away from Chris Davis Tuesday — have been their own attractions.

The Sox, meanwhile, just don't hit many balls far enough to be robbed.

If you’re cut from an old-school cloth, and didn’t really love those station-to-station, home-run powered offenses of yore, this Sox team is for you. There's something to be said for the experience of simply watching something different.

CSNNE SCHEDULE

Red Sox score on wild pitch in 11th for 1-0 win over Orioles

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Red Sox score on wild pitch in 11th for 1-0 win over Orioles

BALTIMORE -- Though they rank last in the American League in home runs, the Boston Red Sox have found plenty of other ways to win - especially in extra innings.

Jackie Bradley Jr. scored the game's lone run on a wild pitch by Brad Brach in the 11th inning, and Boston used six pitchers to silence the Baltimore Orioles' bats in a 1-0 victory Tuesday night.

Boston has won 10 of 13 to move a season-high 23 games over .500 (87-64) and draw closer to clinching a postseason berth. The Red Sox started the day with a three-game lead over the second-place New York Yankees in the AL East.

It was the second straight tight, lengthy game between these AL East rivals. Boston won in 11 innings on Monday night and is 15-3 in extra-inning games - tying a franchise record for extra-inning wins set in 1943.

In this one, pitching and defense proved to be the winning formula. After Drew Pomeranz allowed five hits over 6 1/3 innings, five relievers held the Orioles hitless the rest of the way.

"They've been able, to a man, hand it off to the next guy and continue to build a bridge until we can scratch out a run - tonight not even with an RBI," manager John Farrell said. "We find a way to push a run across."

With a runner on second and two outs in the 11th, Brach (4-5) walked Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts to load the bases for Mitch Moreland, who sidestepped a bouncing pitch from Brach that enabled Bradley to score without a throw.

Joe Kelly (4-1) worked the 10th and Matt Barnes got three outs for his first save.

"They've been unbelievable," Boston's Brock Holt said of the bullpen. "That's why our record is what is in extra-inning games, because of those guys."

The game stretched into extra innings in part because Bradley made a sensational catch to rob Baltimore slugger Chris Davis of a home run in the fifth inning. Bradley quickly judged the trajectory of the ball while running to his left, then left his feet and stretched his arm over the 7-foot wall in center field.

The finish came after Pomeranz and Kevin Gausman locked up in a scoreless duel that was essentially the exact opposite of Monday night's 10-8 slugfest.

Although he didn't get his 17th win, Pomeranz lowered his ERA to 3.15 and set a career high by pitching at least six innings for the 17th time (in 30 starts).

Gausman was even sharper, giving up just three hits over eight innings with one walk and seven strikeouts.

The right-hander retired the first 14 batters he faced before Rafael Devers singled off the right-field wall.

Baltimore threatened in the third inning when Manny Machado hit a two-out double, but he was thrown out by Benintendi trying to score on Jonathan Schoop's single to left field.

No one else got to third base until the sixth, when Baltimore had runners at the corners with two outs before Pomeranz struck out Mark Trumbo with a high, outside fastball.

The Orioles have lost 11 of 13 to fall out of contention.

"They're very frustrated right now," manager Buck Showalter said. "You can imagine grinding as our guys have since February and not being able to push a run like that across in some of these games when we pitch well. That's been a challenge for us. I feel for them because I know how much it means to them."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia, who left Monday's game in the fourth inning after fouling a ball off his nose, did not start but was used as a pinch hitter in the 10th inning and grounded into a double play. Farrell said Pedroia will likely return to the starting lineup Wednesday. . DH Hanley Ramirez (left arm soreness) was out of the starting lineup for the sixth consecutive game. Farrell said Ramirez was available to pinch hit and is likely to start Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Chris Sale (16-7, 2.86 ERA) will seek to match his career high in wins Wednesday night in the series finale. He needs 13 strikeouts to become the first AL pitcher with 300 in a season since Pedro Martinez in 1999.

Orioles: Wade Miley (8-13, 5.32 ERA) has lost his last three starts. The left-hander gave up six runs and got only one out against the Yankees on Friday night.