Chris Sale’s first start in two years for the Boston Red Sox may have marked a turning point in the American League pennant race.
Sale struck out eight in five innings to earn the win against the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday, his return to action after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery in March 2020.
Boston trimmed two games off their deficit in the AL East last week (3 GB entering Monday) and holds a 2½-game lead over the rival New York Yankees for the AL’s second wild-card spot.
The Red Sox will be careful with Sale the rest of the way and he won’t be going very deep into games, but the left-hander’s very presence on a lineup card changes the way everyone in the AL views the last six weeks of the regular season.
Rank (movement from last week)
1. San Francisco Giants (–)
- Evan Longoria back after missing two months with shoulder injury.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (+1)
- Lefty Alex Vesia’s last 13 games: 0.60 ERA, 18 K in 15 innings.
3. Tampa Bay Rays (-1)
- After .208 first half, Brandon Lowe hitting .286 with a .908 OPS since the break.
4. Houston Astros (–)
- Still waiting on Alex Bregman to return.
5. Milwaukee Brewers (+1)
- Eduardo Escobar hit .327 with seven extra-base hits in first 14 games with Milwaukee.
6. Oakland Athletics (+1)
- Starling Marte hit .397 (25-for-63) with 11 RBI in first 14 games for Oakland.
7. Chicago White Sox (-2)
- Eloy Jimenez, who didn’t play until July 26, had 6 HR, 19 RBI in first 14 games.
8. Boston Red Sox (+4)
- Chris Sale shines with eight strikeouts in…