Short of hitting a home run or stealing home, there isn’t much more Chris Sale could have done on Thursday to ensure a Red Sox victory over the Phillies.
Sale was his usual, incredible self, working the full 8.0 innings (110 pitches) against the Phillies. He allowed just one run on four hits with a walk and 10 strikeouts. Officially the loser of the game, Sale actually improved his full-season ERA from 2.97 to 2.82.
Not enough? OK, Sale also belted a career-first double in this Interleague game. He slid cleanly into second then gamely advanced to third on a Mookie Betts pop fly. That neither Dustin Pedroia nor Xander Bogaerts could drive him in from third, well, that’s on them. Sale became the second Red Sox pitcher with a double this season after Rick Porcello‘s two-bagger on May 17 at St. Louis off Mike Leake.
Instead, the Sox lost the final game of the four-game set and handed Philadelphia (1-8) it’s first Interleague victory of 2017. The win also ended an eight game losing streak for the Phillies, who remain the team with the worst record in the majors. Though he left with a no-decision, Phillies rookie Nick Pivetta was outstanding in just his seventh career start, pitching 7.0 IP of shutout baseball with just four hits and two walks allowed while striking out nine.
Thursday’s was the Red Sox’ sixth shutout loss of the season. Only the Giants (7) have had more.
Interleague play has been good for the Sox. They entered Thursday’s action 222-155 (.589) against the National League, giving the Red Sox the best winning percentage since the start of Interleague games in 1997. Thursday’s game was the first time a National League club had shut out or limited Boston to just five hits since last August 6 (Dodgers). Even with the loss, the Sox are guaranteed a winning record in Interleague play for 2017. Boston has had only one losing season against the NL since 2003 (9-11 in 2014).
Winning three games of four versus any opponent is a fine outcome, but the Sox’ on-again-off-again offense maddeningly squandered a chance for the sweep. Now, the Boston ball club heads to Houston to face the best baseball team in the nation, the 45-22 Astros. Drew Pomeranz will be on the mound for Friday’s game.