Red Sox

Sale shuts out Rays for six; Pedroia hits homer as Red Sox win, 9-0

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Sale shuts out Rays for six; Pedroia hits homer as Red Sox win, 9-0

BOSTON -- For a change, Boston's hitters made it a much easier night for Chris Sale.

Sale struck out eight over six innings and Dustin Pedroia hit a two-run homer in the first to get Boston's offense off to a fast start, carrying the Red Sox to a 9-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.

It was the fourth consecutive win for the AL East-leading Red Sox, who remained 4 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Yankees.

Andrew Benintendi had three hits and three RBI and Mitch Moreland drove in three for Boston.

"The early runs were also helpful in not making a stressful outing, with the six innings of work," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "He was able to pitch comfortably."

Fifteen times in his 28 starts, the Red Sox had scored three or fewer runs when Sale was in the game.

"I appreciate them going off tonight," he said.

Tampa Bay lost its third in a row, and has allowed nine runs or more in each game. The Rays entered the day 4 1/2 games behind the AL's second wild-card spot.

Danny Espinosa had three singles for the Rays.

Sale (16-7) allowed six singles, walked two and increased his major-league leading strikeout total to 278. He lowered his ERA to 2.76.

Carson Smith, Heath Hembree and Blaine Boyer each worked an inning in relief.

Matt Andriese (5-3) got just five outs, giving up eight runs - six earned - and seven hits.

"Just not one of those good days," he said. "I was out there throwing strikes, but they were too hittable pitches."

For the second straight night, the Red Sox took control early, putting this one away by scoring three in the first and five in the second.

"That's the second night in a row we kind of got beat up in the first inning and it kind of carried over," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "When you're facing a guy like Chris Sale, it's tough to come back."

Boston won the series opener on Friday, 9-3.

Pedroia homered into the first row of Green Monster seats after Eduardo Nunez singled, making it 2-0. Moreland's groundout scored the other run.

In the second, Benintendi had a two-run double off the Monster, lefty hitter Moreland a two-run single after Mookie Betts, a right-handed batter, was intentionally walked by righty Andriese, and the fifth run scored on third baseman Evan Longoria's throwing error.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Rays: OF Steven Sousa Jr. was out after leaving Friday's game with a bruised left knee he sustained running into a side wall along the right-field line.

Red Sox: INF Nunez limped out of the game after beating out an infield hit with a bruised right knee. He returned to the lineup after missing Friday's game with minor back spasms, then singled in his first at-bat, stole second but got up gingerly after a headfirst slide. Farrell said he was likely out Sunday. . LHP David Price (left elbow inflammation) threw two simulated innings. "A good step obviously in his progression to game activity," Farrell said.

WATCHING IRMA

Sale lives in Fort Myers, Florida and his family lives in the area, too. He's watching the hurricane closely, keeping tabs on everyone.

"I think everyone knows that thing's going right where I live and it's rolling. You think about it and at the same time I have a job to do," he said. "It's tough. Everybody in my family lives down there. My wife and kids came up here. My in-laws are staying with my sister and my parents are getting out of there tomorrow. Everyone's safe, but it's still scary."

GOOD RUN

Sale had struck out 12 or more each of the four times he faced the Rays this season. No pitcher had fanned 12 or more in five straight against a team in the last 100 years.

Bob Gibson, Nolan Ryan, Sam McDowell and Randy Johnson (twice) are the only others to do it four straight against a team.

NICE ANNIVERSARY

Pedroia's first career homer came 11 years ago, also going over the Monster.

UP NEXT

Rays: RHP Alex Cobb (10-9, 3.64 ERA) is set to start the series finale Sunday. The Boston-born righty, a big Red Sox fan until he signed with the Rays in 2006, is 4-1 with a 3.34 ERA in his career in Fenway Park.

Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (9-16, 4.67) is in line to start. He's 1-2 in his last three with a 6.48 ERA.

Red Sox willing to pay highest luxury tax, weighing need for starting pitcher

Red Sox willing to pay highest luxury tax, weighing need for starting pitcher

WASHINGTON — As Chris Sale gets ready for his third consecutive All-Star start, his bosses are contemplating the need to add to the rotation behind him.

With the best record in baseball (68-30) and 64 games remaining, the Red Sox have a willingness to cross baseball’s highest luxury tax threshold and take on a payroll above $237 million this year, team president and CEO Sam Kennedy said. 

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski prefers not to make the jump if avoidable, as most anyone would, but Dombrowski has never shut the door on climbing payroll further. Now, with two weeks until the non-waiver trade deadline, the Sox have to weigh a new wrinkle: the potential need for a starting pitcher, because of an ankle injury to Eduardo Rodriguez that involves serious ligament damage.

“There’s a willingness from our bosses,” Kennedy told NBC Sports Boston in Washington D.C., where he was on hand for an All-Star Game loaded with Sox. “John [Henry] and Tom [Werner] have made very clear to me and to Dave: Look, let’s see how the market develops, and we want to do what it takes to try and win a fourth World Series championship. I don’t know how the market’s going to play out, but we’re getting close here. 

“But there would be a willingness to do that if it meant, in our estimation, making a decision that could really help put us over the edge, over the top, this year and the postseason. You know, we had the taste of October the last two years. There’s no question, we’re hungry for October success.”

There is no such thing as an over-the-top postseason move, because of the uncertainty of a short-series format. The Sox already had interest in adding a reliever for their bullpen. But adding a rotation piece may be more relevant to the goal that has less randomness at play with about 40 percent of the season remaining: holding on to the division.

How much faith the Sox have in both Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright to return to health and effectiveness may be discernible based on the team’s actions, or non-actions, via trade.

“Right now, we will analyze our situation and see what happens,” Dombrowski wrote in an email when asked about his interest in a starter and the outlook for Pomeranz and Wright.

"Dave and I have had lots of discussions about it, and to me, from looking back to the years where we have gotten over the hump in the postseason, a lot of times it’s the obscure speed-on-the-bases [type] or you know, last guy out of the bullpen,” Kennedy said. “But when it comes to October, pitching, pitching, is probably — we’ll see. 

“It depends what happens with Steven Wright, Drew Pomeranz. We got a little bit of time to figure that out. I think if you held a gun to my head, I would always support more pitching. Pitching pitching pitching. Dave and Alex Cora, they’ll make their assessment. 

“I can tell you one thing, John [Henry] and Tom [Werner] and I will be there at the ready to support what they want to do. This obviously has the makings of a very special, special season.”

E-Rod may be out until September. Even if he returns quickly, how effective he is coming off an injury may be something of a wild card. The Sox have seen firsthand this year how players returning from injuries can experience complications. 

Rodriguez had a history of knee subluxations, and his confidence on the mound coming back from those subluxations was low. Still, that was likely in part because the chance of recurrence was particularly high. Rodriguez's history does not necessarily mean that every injury he faces will provide a confidence issue. 

Nonetheless, his ankle injury is to the same right leg that he had surgery on to prevent knee subluxations.

One gamble the Sox could take: if they believe E-Rod can return this year, he could be a decent bullpen addition because of his strikeout stuff. If the Sox believed E-Rod could mentally and physically handle that transition coming off an injury, they could prioritize adding a starting pitcher over a reliever, on the hopes that the bullpen will gain help from E-Rod, or perhaps from Pomeranz or Wright. But that would be a gamble, and adding both a starter and reliever would be safest.

“In regards to E-Rod pitching in relief, it is much too early to answer that question,” Dombrowski wrote.

Going over the $237 million threshold (as calculated for luxury tax purposes, which is slightly different than the actual dollar figure the Sox are paying players this season) would mean the Sox would pick 10 spots lower in next year’s amateur draft. As Alex Speier of the Boston Globe has noted, the difference between a pick near No. 30 (the best teams receive the lowest picks), as opposed to No. 40, historically has not been large. 

In the case of the Sox this year, they would pay a 62.5 percent tax on every dollar spent above $237 million. They are already paying a 20 percent tax on every dollar from $197 million up to $217 (so, $4 million), and 32 percent on every dollar above $217 million (roughly $6 million, depending on where exactly they stand today).

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