BOSTON (AP) — Chris Sale wasn’t about to slow down the way he was pitching.
Sale struck out 13 over seven dazzling innings, Mitch Moreland hit a two-run homer and the Boston Red Sox won the weekend and season series over the Seattle Mariners with a 5-0 victory on Sunday afternoon.
“You try to find a good rhythm and tempo, find a groove and keep it going,” the 6-foot-6 lefty said after posting his first scoreless outing since going six shutout innings in his first start of the season.
— Red Sox (@RedSox) June 24, 2018
He even had a solution when the Mariners’ hitters started stepping out of the batter’s box attempting to disrupt his rhythm.
“Keep throwing strikes,” he said. “Try to not let what’s going on outside the zone affect you.”
Sale (7-4) gave up four hits, walked one and ended his day by striking out Mike Zunino swinging on a 100-mph fastball. Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes each pitched an inning to complete the four-hit shutout that only took 2 hours, 29 minutes.
Mostly mixing an overpowering fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s with a sharp-breaking slider in the low 80s, the lanky Sale was working quickly and dominant from the start.
Alex Cora decided to steal an inning for Chris Sale and takes him out after 93 pitches.
Through 17 starts, Sale has thrown 11.2 fewer innings and 138 fewer pitches than through 17 starts last season.
ERA down to 2.56. Was 2.61 same point last year.
— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) June 24, 2018
He struck out 10 of the first 16 batters he faced, including the side in order in the fifth – the last two swinging on 99 mph fastballs.
“I’m glad that he’s on my team and I don’t have to face him,” Moreland said. “He’s filthy and showed it again today.”
Jackie Bradley Jr. had three singles and Rafael Devers added an RBI double for Boston, which struggled offensively in a loss Saturday after putting up 14 runs and 20 hits in the series opener.
The Mariners have lost six of seven games and fell to 1-5 on their 10-game East Coast trip.
“Chris Sale was on top of his game, no doubt, and he had really good stuff today,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “When he’s got the off-speed pitches and the slider was really a dominant pitch for him today, like it often is.”
Marco Gonzales (7-5) gave up five runs on seven hits in six innings, striking out six without a walk. He was locked in a scoreless duel with Boston’s ace in the fifth.
“He’s a great pitcher,” Gonzales said. “I knew that I needed some good stuff today and I knew I needed to give our team the best chance to win and keep it a close game.”
The Red Sox broke ahead 3-0 in the fifth on the double by Devers, and sacrifice flies by Sandy Leon and Mookie Betts after Xander Bogaerts doubled leading off and Eduardo Nunez singled.
Moreland’s homer into the center-field batter’s eye made it 5-0 an inning later.
?Dead Center. pic.twitter.com/owel6PCCFs
— Red Sox (@RedSox) June 24, 2018
Gonzales was sharp early, spotting a fastball that broke into the low 90s along with a changeup, curveball and cutter. He had the hitters off-balance, causing a lot of weak or early swings until they began waiting on pitches. He had all six Ks through the first four innings.
Nelson Cruz had a two-out triple in the fourth, but was stranded when Ryon Healy struck out on a slider in the dirt.
Mariners: SS Jean Segura missed his fourth straight game with a right forearm infection.
Red Sox: RF Mookie Betts (sickness) and SS Bogaerts (strained left index finger) both returned to the lineup after missing Saturday’s game. “Good to have them both back in the lineup,” manager Alex Cora said after his club was held to three singles in the first eight innings Saturday. . Cora also said that LHP Drew Pomeranz (10-day DL, left biceps tendinitis) will ramp up this week if things go well in his next bullpen session.
Betts made a semi-leaping grab on Mitch Haniger’s fly ball to end the sixth with his back nearly up against the bullpen wall.
Cruz went 1 for 4, finishing 8 for 13 in the series with two homers, seven RBIs and four runs scored.
Boston won the season series, 4-3, which could come into play for homefield if the teams tied for the AL’s Wild Card spot.
Mariners: RHP Felix Hernandez (6-6, 5.14 ERA) faces Orioles RHP Andrew Cashner (2-8, 4.72) on Monday when Seattle opens the final stop of its trip with the first of a four games in Baltimore.
Red Sox: After and a day off Monday, LHP David Price (8-5, 3.81) goes for Boston against LHP John Lamb (0-0, 5.40) when the Angles come to Fenway Park for a three-game series beginning Tuesday.