Sale's department: Ace dominates Mariners in 5-0 winBy MICHAEL SILVERMAN
June 24. 2018 10:46PM
With a gentle breeze, partly sunny skies and the temperature in the comfortable mid 70’s, there was no better place to spend an early summer afternoon in New England Sunday than at Fenway Park, where Chris Sale was in dominating, best-in-the-business form, leading the Red Sox to a decisive 5-0 win over the Mariners.
There was a backdrop to that perfection, though, one connected to the change of season coming this fall.
That’s when Sale and the Red Sox begin what appears to be an inevitable run in the playoffs.
And since it looks as if Seattle has a strong shot at being one of the American League wild cards, Sunday’s game held special significance. The Red Sox and Mariners began the game tied in their season series, 3-3. Should the Red Sox be unable to top the Yankees in the AL East, they could face the the Mariners in a one-game wild card playoff series.
If that matchup does take place, Sunday’s win sealed home-field advantage for the Red Sox for that contest.
Considering that Sale would likely be on the mound for that all-important game, if he pitches then like he did Sunday, that will be the Mariners’ final game of the season.
Sale delivered what was arguably his best start of the season: seven scoreless innings, four hits and one walk allowed with 13 strikeouts, his slider in top form, his fastball topping out at 100 mph. Sale threw 93 pitches, 71 for strikes,
He did not allow a hit until the second batter of the third inning, Denard Span, who then got caught stealing in an out started with Sale’s quick throw to first base.
From there Sale struck out seven of the next eight batters he faced.
At first, Seattle starter Marco Gonzales (7-5) was right there with Sale, holding the Red Sox lineup to only one hit through the first four innings.
Then, in the fifth, with their second look at Gonzales, the middle of the lineup began to figure him out, quickly.
Xander Bogaerts led off with a double down the left-field line, followed by a single Eduardo Nunez barreled up the middle. The back-to-back hits stirred the crowd out of its summer slumber and then Rafael Devers jolted fans out of their seats with an RBI double for the 1-0 lead. Two sacrifice flies hit deep to center field, one by Sandy Leon, the other by Mookie Betts, padded the Red Sox lead to 3-0.
The next inning, J.D. Martinez beat out an infield single and then trotted home on a home run that Mitch Moreland bounced off the black batter’s eye tarp in straightaway center field to give the Red Sox the 5-0 lead.
After the Red Sox scored their three runs in the fifth inning, Sale did not waste the chance to deliver a shutdown inning in the top of the sixth. He struck out the side. In the sixth, almost the same story, except he didn’t record a strikeout, just two ground ball outs and a flyout, his only inning without a strikeout.
Joe Kelly pitched a perfect eighth, Matt Barnes a perfect ninth to finish the shutout.