But instead of shining, Sale got lit up -- and he still won.
Light-hitting Deven Marrero cracked a pair of home runs and had five RBIs, and the Red Sox went deep six times while outslugging the White Sox for a 13-7 victory.
Sale (6-2), who spent his first seven seasons with the White Sox, allowed six runs on 10 hits in five innings -- his shortest and shakiest outing this season. The lanky lefty, traded to Boston last December for four prospects, struck out nine to boost his major-league-leading total to 110.
"I had a bad night, I really did," Sale said. "I wasn't throwing a whole lot of strikes and was falling behind guys."
Boston's Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a three-run home run and an RBI double, and Xander Bogaerts had four hits, including a solo homer. Mitch Moreland had a two-run homer, Mookie Betts added a solo shot and Sam Travis had three hits in Boston's 16-hit onslaught.
"This ballpark played extremely small here tonight, but Chris Sale gave us everything he had to get through five innings to get a win for himself and us," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Good to see us swing the bats the way we did here tonight."
Sale added, "I didn't do a whole lot to help us win, and that says a lot about the guys behind me."
Marrero entered the game hitting .175 with a home run and six RBIs. He launched two- and three-run shots off struggling White Sox starter Jose Quintana for his first career multi-homer game.
"This game tonight delivered the unexpected," Farrell said. "The way this game was going, we needed every run we could score. But to see what (Marrero) and Jackie did at the bottom of the order was outstanding."
Marrero, who couldn't recall the last time he homered twice in game, connected on two Quintana curveballs.
Marrero called that "awesome" but was just as happy with being able to help pick up Sale and keep Boston ahead throughout the night.
"It felt good to have those bounce-back innings for Chris," Marrero said, "when we score, then they score and we score again. I think that kind of set the tone for the game and that we weren't backing down."
Boston's Craig Kimbrel got the final four outs for his 14th save.
Todd Frazier hit a two-run homer for Chicago, while Tim Anderson had a solo shot and two RBIs and Jose Abreu drove in two runs with a single. Leury Garcia and Melky Cabrera each had three hits of the White Sox's 14 hits.
Quintana (2-7) was hit hard for the second straight outing and lost his third straight decision. The left-hander allowed seven runs on 10 hits and was yanked with two outs in the third after Marrero's second homer.
"We're just going to have to keep grinding it out," manager Rick Renteria said. "It's not the stuff. It's the command and the execution.
"If we can get that back on track, I think Q's going to be who he is, which is a very effective major league pitcher."
Sale was a five-time All-Star with the White Sox, going 74-50 with a 3.00 ERA. He was dealt to Boston once Chicago committed to rebuilding.
Sale got a warm, but not rousing, standing ovation from the crowd of 21,852 when he took the mound in the bottom of the first. He recorded his first five outs on strikeouts.
The Red Sox staked Sale to a 4-0 lead in the second as they sent nine men to the plate.
After Travis and Bradley Jr. doubled, Marrero smacked a two-run shot to left-center. Betts, the next hitter, launched a home run to left as the Red Sox went deep back-to-back for the second time this season.
The White Sox closed the gap to 4-3 in the bottom of the second, doing all the damage after Sale fanned the first two hitters. Leury Garcia drove in one run and then Abreu knocked in two more, each with sharp singles.
Marrero lofted a three-run homer in the third to restore Boston's four-run lead and chase Quintana.
After Chris Young and Travis singled to open the inning, Quintana retired the next two hitters and was on the verge of escaping of the jam. However, Marrero hit a 3-2 curveball just over the railing in right-center.
Tim Anderson singled in Avisail Garcia from third in the bottom of the inning to cut Boston's lead to 7-4. Frazier's two-run homer to left with two outs in the fourth trimmed it to 7-6.
Bradley Jr. lined his three-run home run to right in the fifth to increase Boston's lead to 10-6.
Bogaerts' homer in the eighth made it 11-6. Anderson replied in the bottom of the inning.
Moreland hit a two-run shot in the ninth.
NOTES: Boston 2B Dustin Pedroia was placed on the 10-day disabled list earlier on Tuesday with a left wrist sprain sustained during a collision with White Sox 1B Jose Abreu in Monday's series opener. An MRI revealed no structural damage. Pedroia is dealing with soreness and swelling, and his hand and forearm were bandaged in a splint as he talked to media before Tuesday's game. "It could have been a lot worse," Pedroia said. ... Josh Rutledge started at second base for Boston on Tuesday. ... Red Sox activated 3B Pablo Sandoval to take Pedroia's place on the 25-man roster. Sandoval missed 31 games with a right knee sprain. ... Before the game, Chicago manager Rick Renteria said RHP James Shields (strained right lat) and RHP Nate Jones (elbow nerve irritation) continue to progress through bullpen sessions, but he gave no timeline for rehab assignments or returns. ... Boston LHP Drew Pomeranz (4-3, 4.70 ERA) faces Chicago RHP Mike Pelfrey (2-4, 4.41 ERA) in the series finale on Wednesday night.