SEATTLE – The Mariners knew what awaited them Wednesday afternoon in their series finale against Boston at Safeco Field. Chris Sale. It’s why their comeback victory early Wednesday morning carried extra weight.
Sale is the American League’s best pitcher.
That’s indisputable, isn’t it?
Houston’s Dallas Keuchel or even the Mariners’ James Paxton might be able to build a case if they each hadn’t spent extended time on the disabled list.
But Sale leads the league in wins, innings, earned-run average, strikeouts and opponents batting average among other things. It’s why he started for the A.L. in the All-Star Game.
And he overmatched the Mariners over seven innings in a 4-0 victory before Blaine Boyer and Craig Kimbrel closed it out. Kimbrel got his 25th save in 28 chances.
“With Sale, it’s deception, it’s angle,” said left fielder Ben Gamel, who had one of the three hits that Sale permitted. “He does a lot of things well. He can be erratic at times, but he’s not walking people. It’s a grind.”
The Mariners were, to some extent, playing with house money after winning the first two games in the series, including a 13-inning comeback thriller that began Tuesday night and stretched into Wednesday morning.
“After a long, crazy game last night,” manager Scott Servais said, “we’re matched up against Sale today. You try to keep it as tight as we can and then get on them late.
“There’s a reason he’s been the most dominant starter in the American League this year, and we saw it today.”
Sale struck out 11 while improving to 13-4 and lowering his ERA to 2.37. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last 21 2/3 innings.
The Mariners often muttered to umpire Paul Nauert about his strike zone, but the Pitch f/x computer generally confirmed Sale truly was painting the strike zone’s borders with remarkable regularity.
Which pretty much made him unhittable.
“He’s had a start like today a number of times this year,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “We’re watching one of the better years ever pitched in the American League.”
Boston backed Sale with four runs against Mariners rookie Andrew Moore (1-3) in 6 2/3 innings.
Moore gave up two more homers, which makes an alarming 11 in 36 2/3 innings, but still pitched deep enough into the game to ease the strain on a bullpen stretched thin by that 13-inning victory.
“The home run ball continues to get him a little bit,” Servais said. “He’s learning. I certainly like his competitiveness. He just didn’t have that pitch to finish them today, and the home run ball got him.”
The loss dropped the Mariners to 51-52. They have an open date on Thursday before concluding a 10-game homestand with three weekend games against the New York Mets.
Moore made it through the first inning with no problems but started the second with a walk to Hanley Ramirez, who went to third on Jackie Bradley Jr.’s double to right.
Ramirez scored on Mitch Moreland’s sacrifice fly to left.
Rafael Devers boosted the lead to 2-0 when he opened the third inning with a 427-foot homer to center. It was also Devers’ first big-league hit.
“I just have to stay in good counts,” Moore said. “For the most part, I did a good job today. But the (pitches) to Devers and the Bradley Jr., I just got into bad counts. They kind of know what’s coming at that point.”
The Mariners got their first hit on Jean Segura’s one-out double in the third inning, but Sale then struck out Gamel and Nelson Cruz.
Moore gave up another homer, a two-run drive by Sandy Leon with two outs in the fourth inning that extended Boston’s lead to 4-0. With Sale in top form, a four-run lead looked like 40.
“The goal coming in here was to win the series,” Servais said. “We did accomplish that, which is great. That’s a first-place club over there. We’re trying to move up in the standings, so it was important to have a good series.
“I thought we did play well. We just got shut down today.”
PLAY OF THE GAME: Third baseman Kyle Seager made an over-the-shoulder catch in short left field on Moreland’s pop for the first out in the fourth inning with a runner on second.
PLUS: Gamel’s leadoff single in the sixth inning extended his hitting streak to 13 games. He went 2 for 4 and raised his average to .324…rookie Emilio Pagan pitched out of a bases-loaded jam with one out in the eighth inning. He has allowed just one run in 19 1/3 innings in his last seven outings…Guillermo Heredia reached three times in four plate appearances with a single, a walk and getting hit by a pitch.
MINUS: Cruz was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts. He is hitless in his last 13 at-bats with seven strikeouts…Mitch Haniger is hitless in his last 18 at-bats after going 0 for 3 with a walk…Danny Espinosa started in place of Robinson Cano and went 0 for 3. He is hitless in four at-bats in two games since joining the Mariners and has an overall average of .159 in 79 games.
STAT PACK: At 20 years and 275 days old, Devers is the youngest Red Sox player to hit a home run since Tony Conigliaro in September 1965. Devers is the youngest player, period, to hit a homer since Houston shortstop Carlos Correa on June 23, 2015.
QUOTABLE: The pitch from Moore that Leon hit for a homer was a hanging curve – a problem that has plagued Moore in his six starts.
“Early on,” he said, “I was throwing some good ones, but that one to Leon… At the end, I’ve just got to be better late in counts. I was trying to do too much.
“Kind of the same situation the (Aaron) Judge pitch last time (in a loss to the Yankees). I was trying to make it too good instead of just trusting the grip and the movement off of it.”
SHORT HOPS: Short-A Everett placed three players on the Northwest League All-Star team for its July 30 game against the Pioneer League: catcher David Banuelos, infielder Joseph Rosa and pitcher Andres Torres…Sale has 14 games this season with 10 or more strikeouts. That’s the most in a season since 2002 when Randy Johnson, then with Arizona, had 15. Johnson’s teammate, Curt Schilling, had 14.
ON DECK: The Mariners have an open date Thursday before concluding their 10-game homestand with three weekend games against the New York Mets at Safeco Field.
Left-hander Ariel Miranda (7-4 with a 4.30 ERA) will oppose New York right-hander Rafael Montero (1-7, 5.19) at 7:10 p.m. Friday in the series opener.
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