Boston Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale (41). File photo by Eric Gay/UPI | License Photo
BOSTON -- Chris Sale is lined up perfectly to make his third consecutive All-Star start next week in Washington.
But first, the skinny left-hander, again a candidate for the Cy Young Award which would be his first has work to do Wednesday night at Fenway Park as the Boston Red Sox go for their ninth straight win and a three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers.
Sale, who has pitched to a 4-1 record and 1.10 ERA in his last six starts, opposes the ageless Bartolo Colon.
Boston (64-29) is pushing for its third straight three-game series sweep and its 14th win in the last 16 games. Tuesday night's 8-4 victory over the Rangers increased its lead atop the American League East over the losing New York Yankees to 3 1/2 games -- the largest lead since April 26.
They won Tuesday night in one of those "bullpen games," with Hector Velazquez working the first three innings and five relievers followed.
The Red Sox have scored 63 runs during their eight-game winning streak.
"Lineup wise, everybody's doing an outstanding job," Boston manager Alex Cora said. "We're having fun. It's a pretty good lineup right now from top to bottom.
"We know where we're at. We're playing good baseball. That's what it's all about. The line kept moving. That's what it's all about from top to bottom. It's a pretty good lineup. They've been doing that the past few weeks."
Colon is making his second try at snapping the tie with Dennis Martinez and giving him 246 career victories, the most by a Latin American pitcher.
The portly right-hander was 35 years old and appeared to be washed up when he went 4-2 with the Red Sox in 2008. He has 95 victories since and brings a 5-6 record and 4.65 ERA into Wednesday night's start.
He faces Sale, who notched his 100th career win (62 losses) his last time out and has been, like his team, on fire. Opponent hitters have batted .148 against him in the last six outings, with Sale walking nine and striking out 66 while posting an .073 WHIP.
He has fanned at least 10 in four straight and five of his last six.
The Rangers are 2-4 on their 10-game road trip leading up to the All-Star break with Yovani Gallardo's third-inning blowup the difference Tuesday.
"Third inning was challenging for Gallardo," Texas manager Jeff Banister said. "Struggled landing his off-speed pitch, a fastball got elevated.
"I thought the first and the second inning (was a) really good mix with both the soft and the hard and was able to get the fastball where he wanted to and expand with a breaking ball. But third through the fifth was a little bit challenging getting his breaking ball and changeup where he wanted to."
The Texas hitters have, for the most part, dreadful numbers against Sale.
Sale is 6-2 with a 3.12 ERA in 13 career games (nine starts) against the Rangers including a strong 12-strikeout win in Arlington, Texas. on May 6.
Delino DeShields is 4-for-9 and Adrian Beltre 5-for-16 with a homer against Sale, but Robinson Chirinos is 0-for-8 with four strikeouts, newly acquired Austin Jackson 2-for-37, Shin-Soo Choo 2-for-26, Elvis Andrus 2-for-25, Joey Gallo 1-for-9 with six strikeouts and Ryan Rua 2-for-9.
Not much stands out on the Boston side against Colon. Rafael Devers has two homers in three at-bats and Eduardo Nunez is 0-for-8 lifetime against Colon.
Colon is 9-12 with a 3.82 ERA in 30 games (28 starts) against the Red Sox and 7-6 with a 3.74 ERA at Fenway.
Before Tuesday's game, Cora said he wasn't expecting the injured Dustin Pedroia to return anytime soon from his left knee problems and the second baseman is heading home to Arizona to continue his rehab.
"We love him to be around here," Cora said. "For now, it's better he go over there and disconnect a little bit from all this and just concentrate on himself. There are going to be some adjustments on the rehab dealing with hammy and core and gluts. I think that's the best thing we can do right now."
Choo extended his Rangers single-season on-base record to 48 straight games with a pair of walks Tuesday.