CHICAGO — Friday night was Redemption Night for the Red Sox.
Yes, Rafael Devers atoned for his game-changing error Thursday night with a three-run home run in the first inning of the 6-1 win over the White Sox.
But on the grander, more momentous battlefield where the strengths and weaknesses of this mystifying and maddening 15-18 Red Sox team are being debated fiercely, Chris Sale put to rest for one night fears forged from too many of his first six starts that his 2019 season was headed toward disastrous territory.
Instead, the Sale that showed up at his old stomping grounds was the vintage Sale, his dominance familiar to White Sox fans as well as to Red Sox fans for most of his time with the ballclub over the last two-plus seasons.
Sale (1-5) did not allow a hit until Yoan Moncada — half of the blue-chip prospect bounty the Red Sox gave up to Chicago in the 2016 trade — singled to center field with two outs in the fourth inning.
By the time Sale was finished after six innings, he had allowed only three hits but most importantly not a single run for the first time this season. He struck out 10 batters for the second time this season.
And for the first time, the Red Sox won a game with him.
“It was nice to feel like I’m back on track and actually help this team win a ballgame,” Sale said. “Just kind of got back to some old little things I used to do, I talked with AC and (pitching coach Dana LeVangie) a lot this week about getting back to doing some things that I used to do, things that made me successful and things that changed a couple of things. Just kind of focused on some of the things that made me successful before.”
AC, also known as Red Sox manager Alex Cora, was very pleased.
“He pitched well today: 94, 95, good slider, fastball inside,” Cora said.
“You’ve got to stick with the process, and we’ve been very patient. Obviously we wanted results before, but you stay with the process and good things are going to happen. You could see him, his body language halfway through the last start, it was good and today, man at second no outs, he did what he did. It was a good sign.”
Sale entered the game with a pallid 0-5 record and beefy 6.30 ERA, a season-long performance of underwhelming results that was beginning to raise warning flags about what was going on, especially with Sale signing a five-year extension. His velocity has been up and down, and in his last start coming into Chicago, his season-high seven innings were muted by velocity mostly in the low 90s.
Sale allayed the fears at Guaranteed Rate Field.
He was consistently around 94 mph in the early innings, topping out at 96.5 mph on that hit by Moncada. He needed 23 pitches to get through the first inning, but just 11 in the second as he fell into a comfortable looking groove that began to look familiar the longer he stood out on the mound.
His biggest jam occurred in the fifth, which began with a double to left and and then a hit batsman. Sale retired the next three White Sox via strikeouts.
He also survived a two-out double in the sixth, catching Moncada looking at strike three to end the inning and his start with 104 pitches thrown.
“I know it hasn’t looked pretty up to this point but that’s sports, that’s baseball — sometimes you figure it out and you ride that wave and sometimes you’re out there in the middle of the ocean trying to find it,” Sale said. “Not only myself but a lot of people in here have helped me get to this point and obviously I’m happy with how we got it done tonight, and hopefully I can keep riding that wave and finding that groove and continue to build off of this and keep it going.”
Devers’ blast gave the Red Sox the 3-0 lead.
In the sixth inning, Michael Chavis, playing in his 13th game, hit his fourth home run of the season — tying him with J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts (31 games each) — a titanic drive to left field, estimated to travel 459 feet. It was a two-run dinger.
The Red Sox extended that 5-0 lead to 6-0 that same inning after Mookie Betts drew a walk with the bases loaded.
On the minus side, Tzu-Wei Lin was knocked out of the game in the second inning after he injured his left knee on a stolen base attempt. Lin started the game as the center fielder. He was replaced in the lineup by Steve Pearce.
Colten Brewer walked two and then gave up an RBI single to ruin the team shutout bid in the eighth inning.
Lin placed on IL
Tzu-Wei Lin sprained his left knee on a steal attempt in the second inning of Friday night’s 6-1 victory. He is going on the injured list and back to Boston for more tests.
Taking his place on the roster will be Eduardo Nunez, who will return from his rehab stint with Pawtucket. Nunez has had a bad back.
Lin, who happened to be starting in center field to give Jackie Bradley Jr. the night off, is the fourth second baseman-infielder to wind up on the IL this season, joining Nunez, Dustin Pedroia and Brock Holt.