Sale works 5 scoreless in debut, Red Sox lose 3-2 to Rays

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Chris Sale worked five scoreless innings in his season debut, but the Boston 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 fracture in his right rib cage, allowed three hits with one walk and struck out five. The lefty reached 97 mph on his fastball during a 78-pitch, 53-strike outing.

“I felt better as it went on,” Sale said. “Feeling strong in the fourth and fifth inning, that’s nice. I’ll just keep building off of that.”

The Red Sox are hoping the 33-year-old Sale can boost their chances of making the playoffs. This was just his 10th start for Boston since 2019; he missed 2020 and most of 2021 following Tommy John surgery.

“Sale was tough,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He looked really sharp for not having pitched all season long in the big leagues.”

Corey Kluber (5-5) allowed two runs and four hits in six innings to beat the Red Sox in consecutive starts. The right-hander went six shutout innings in a 7-1 victory at Boston last Wednesday.

The Rays went up 3-2 in the sixth when pinch-hitter Francisco Mejia had 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 worked the ninth for his fifth save in six chances.

Boston second baseman Trevor Story left the game when he was hit on the right hand by a pitch he swung at in the fifth inning. He was scheduled to undergo X-rays late Tuesday night.

Tampa Bay trailed 2-1 with two out in the sixth when Taylor Walls lined a single off Strahm’s left wrist. The left-hander then threw wildly to first base, allowing Isaac Paredes to score. First baseman Franchy Cordero then threw off the mark to the plate, and Mejia scored the go-ahead run.

Alex Verdugo got Boston’s first hit off Kluber when he flared a single to left with one out in the fifth. He went to third when Jeter Downs – Story’s replacement – had a soft single to center. Boston took a 2-0 lead on Cordero’s RBI sacrifice bunt and a run-scoring triple by Bobby Dalbec.

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 sat out the previous three games with lower back pain, went 1 for 4 as the designated hitter. Regular DH J.D. Martinez, added to the AL All-Star team Tuesday, didn’t play because of a tight back.

JUST A MINUTE

Sale’s first pitch was briefly delayed when he dropped his Pitch Com device en route to the mound. He walked from the mound back toward the third-base line where he retrieved it.

“A rookie move,” Sale said with a smile. “It fell out of my hat. A nice little circus act before we get going.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Red Sox: INF/OF Kike Hernandez (right hip flexor strain) had his rehab assignment ended and will be re-evaluated. “We had to back off and now see if there’s something else going on that we haven’t seen,” Cora said. … RHP Garrett Whitlock (right hip) worked two scoreless innings for Double-A Portland and could rejoin the Red Sox this weekend.

Rays: 2B Brandon Lowe, out since May 16 with a lower-back injury, went 3 for 4 for Triple-A Durham and could be back this weekend.

MOVING DAY

Red Sox: Sale was reinstated from the 60-day injured list and righty Brayan Bello was optioned to Triple-A Worcester.

Rays: RHP Luke Bard was optioned to Triple-A Durham and righties Ralph Garza Jr. and Tommy Romero were recalled.

UP NEXT

Boston right-hander Josh Winckowski (3-3) and Rays All-Star left-hander Shane McClanahan (9-3) are Wednesday night’s starters in a matchup of southwest Florida high school products.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.