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Chris Sale pitched five shutout innings in his season debut, but Boston’s bullpen couldn’t hold a two-run lead in a 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night.
Sale, out all season with a fractured right rib cage, allowed three hits with one walk and struck out five. The left-hander reached 97 mph with his fastball during a 78-pitch, 53-strike outing.
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“I felt better as I went along,” Sale said. “Feeling strong in the fourth and fifth innings, that’s good. I’ll keep building on that.”
The Red Sox are hoping the 33-year-old Sale can boost their chances of making the playoffs. This was only his 10th start for Boston since 2019; he missed 2020 and most of 2021 following Tommy John surgery.
“The sale was tough,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He looked pretty good for not pitching all season in the big leagues.”
Corey Kluber (5-5) allowed two runs on four hits in six innings to beat the Red Sox in consecutive starts. The right-hander pitched six shutout innings in a 7-1 win at Boston last Wednesday.
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The Rays went up 3-2 in the sixth when pinch hitter Francisco Mejia hit an RBI single off Matt Strahm (3-3). Two more runs scored when the Red Sox made two errors on the same play.
Brooks Raley pitched the ninth for his fifth save in six chances.
Boston second baseman Trevor Story left the game when he was hit in the right hand by a pitch he swung at in the fifth inning. He was scheduled to undergo X-rays Tuesday night.
Tampa Bay trailed 2-1 with two outs in the sixth when Taylor Walls singled to Strahm’s left wrist. The lefty then threw wildly to first base, allowing Isaac Paredes to score. First baseman Franchy Cordero then threw the tag home and Mejía scored the go-ahead run.
Alex Verdugo had Boston’s first hit off Kluber when he singled to left field with one out in the fifth. It was to third when Jeter Downs, Story’s replacement, hit a soft single to center field. Boston took a 2-0 lead on Cordero’s RBI sacrifice bunt and Bobby Dalbec’s scoring 3-pointer.
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Verdugo was picked off at third in the seventh when Boston had runners on the corners with no outs.
Boston All-Star Rafael Devers, who missed the previous three games with lower back pain, went 1-for-4 as the designated hitter. Regular designated hitter JD Martinez, added to the American League All-Star team on Tuesday, did not play because of back problems.
JUST ONE MINUTE
Sale’s first pitch was briefly delayed when he dropped his Pitch Com device on the way to the mound. He walked from the mound to the third base line where he retrieved it.
“A rookie move,” Sale said with a smile. “She fell out of my hat. A nice little circus act before we go.”
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Red Sox: INF/OF Kiké Hernández (right hip flexor strain) completed his rehab assignment and will be re-evaluated. “We had to go back and now see if there’s anything else we haven’t seen,” Cora said. … RHP Garrett Whitlock (right hip) pitched two scoreless innings for Double-A Portland and could join the Red Sox this weekend.
Rays: 2B Brandon Lowe, out since May 16 with a lower back injury, went 3-for-4 at Triple-A Durham and could return this weekend.
Red Sox: Sale was reinstated from the 60-day disabled list and right-hander Brayan Bello was optioned to Triple-A Worcester.
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Rays: RHP Luke Bard was optioned to Triple-A Durham and right-handers Ralph Garza Jr. and Tommy Romero were waived.
UNTIL NEXT TIME
Boston right-hander Josh Winckowski (3-3) and Rays All-Star left-hander Shane McClanahan (9-3) are Wednesday night’s starters in a showdown of high school produce from Southwest Florida.