Chris Sale will look to make it three straight wins since making his return from Tommy John surgery as the Boston Red Sox host the Minnesota Twins in the finale of a three-game series on Thursday night.
Sale (2-0, 1.80 ERA) looked sharp in his first two outings back, allowing a total of two runs while walking one and striking out 13 over 10 innings.
The seven-time All-Star left-hander will play a key role for the Red Sox as they try to stay in contention for a playoff spot.
Boston’s lead over Oakland for the second American League wild card shrunk to 1 1/2 games following a messy 9-6 loss in 10 innings to Minnesota on Wednesday. The Red Sox outlasted the Twins 11-9 in the series opener Tuesday.
“We’ve just got to keep going,” Boston manager Alex Cora said. “(The players) know it, the coaching staff know it. Obviously for me it’s very frustrating to see a team that I manage be sloppy fundamentally.”
The result snapped a four-game losing streak for Minnesota, which would capture its fifth series victory in six tries with a win over Boston in the finale.
“You can’t let it get to you to the point where you cannot keep playing,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said about his team’s prior struggles. “You have to just play on, re-focus, do what you need to do to win a ballgame.”
Sale has yet to log more than five innings and has thrown no more than 89 pitches in his outings as the Red Sox continue to ease him back.
In his start on Friday, Sale threw five scoreless innings while allowing five hits, walking one and striking out five in a 6-0 win against the Texas Rangers.
Sale last faced the Twins on July 27, 2018, when he tossed six scoreless innings and gave up three hits and two walks while fanning 10 in a game Boston won 4-3 in extra innings. Overall, Sale is 10-6 with a 3.93 ERA in 28 games (20 starts) against Minnesota.
Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson has had success against Sale in his career, batting .303 (10-for-33) with five home runs and 10 RBIs against him. However, Donaldson has also struck out nine times vs. Sale.
Minnesota will send right-hander John Gant (4-7, 3.77 ERA) to the mound for the finale.
The right-hander has struggled since joining the Twins after being traded by the St. Louis Cardinals on July 30. Gant is 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA over eight appearances (one start) with Minnesota after going 4-6 with a 3.42 ERA in 25 outings (14 start) with the Cardinals.
The 29-year-old gave up four runs on three hits with a walk and four strikeouts over 3 1/3 innings in a 7-5 road loss to the New York Yankees on Aug. 19.
Gant faced Boston once before, as a rookie with the Atlanta Braves on April 27, 2016. He tossed 4 2/3 innings of two-run ball, allowing three hits and three walks while striking out four in a relief appearance.
–Field Level Media