DETROIT — Chris Sale is drawing comparisons from his manager to another dominant left-hander.
“He’s reminding me a lot of Randy — Randy Johnson,” Boston manager Alex Cora said. “The thing with Randy, it looked like he was always grinding. With (Sale) it looks effortless right now.”
Sale struck out nine in six scoreless innings, and Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a three-run homer to lift the Red Sox to a 9-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Sunday. Sale allowed two hits, lowered his ERA to an American League-best 2.13 and won his sixth straight decision.
The Red Sox are 19-4 in their last 23 games, and the AL East leaders cruised through the finale of this series after scoring just one run in the previous two nights at Detroit.
Blaine Hardy (3-3) allowed four runs and five hits in three-plus innings. Jeimer Candelario homered for the Tigers in the seventh.
Sale (11-4) has won each of his last five starts, allowing one run in 33 innings in that span. He had gone five straight starts with at least 11 strikeouts — and only one walk in each — but that streak came to an end when he was lifted Sunday after 99 pitches.
“I feel good. I feel like a broken record sometimes, but we scored nine runs today?” Sale said. “You get a padded lead like that, you can kind of dig in and just try to find a groove and keep going.”
Boston scored twice in the second on RBI groundouts by Rafael Devers and Eduardo Nunez, then the Red Sox broke the game open in the fourth.
With men on second and third and nobody out, Devers hit a grounder to first baseman John Hicks, who immediately threw home — only to have Steve Pearce, the Boston runner at third, stay put. Devers reached on that fielder’s choice, loading the bases.
“That’s an instinct play, and you know the situation. We’ve got our backup catcher playing first base,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He needs to look around and figure out what’s happening before he makes that throw, but he feels like the runner is going to go on that ball.”
Drew VerHagen came on to relieve Hardy, and Nunez greeted him with an RBI single off the glove of Candelario, the third baseman. Xander Bogaerts, the runner on second, held up when he made it to third, but Devers — who had started the play on first — nearly reached third himself before stopping because Bogaerts was still there. Devers was tagged out .
The Red Sox weren’t hurt much by that baserunning mishap. Bradley followed with his seventh homer of the year, giving Boston a 6-0 lead.
Andrew Benintendi hit a two-run triple in the seventh, and J.D. Martinez added a sacrifice fly.
The game was delayed 1 hour, 35 minutes at the start because of rain.
TOUGH OUT: Candelario was impressive even in the lopsided defeat. He battled Sale through 21 pitches in two plate appearances, finally grounding out to third both times.
His homer came off reliever Brandon Workman.
“He was a pain,” Sale said. “Put good at-bats together, and obviously later in the game ran into one. I don’t know what I was doing or what he was doing, but I need to figure something out.”
TRAINER’S ROOM: Red Sox: 2B Brock Holt sat out a second straight game after exiting Friday night with a bruised knee.
UP NEXT: Boston heads to Baltimore for a three-game series. Rick Porcello (11-4) takes the mound for the Red Sox on Monday night against Kevin Gausman (4-7).
The Tigers travel for a three-game set at Kansas City. Detroit’s Francisco Liriano (3-5) starts the opener Monday night against Heath Fillmyer (0-1).
SATURDAY NIGHT’S GAME: Detroit right-hander Mike Fiers worked impressively into the seventh inning Saturday night, and Jose Iglesias homered and drove in four runs to lift the Tigers to a 5-0 win over the Boston Red Sox.
Fiers has been sharp lately, and after lowering his ERA to 3.49, he’s looking more and more like someone the rebuilding Tigers might trade to a contender.
“You see it. You see your name pop up here and there,” Fiers said. “I’ve just got to keep my mind focused on baseball and pitching and just go out there every fifth day.”
Fiers (7-6) had his first scoreless outing since his Tigers debut April 8, when he beat the Chicago White Sox 1-0 in Detroit’s only other shutout this season. This time, he allowed seven hits and three walks in 6 1/3 innings, striking out six.
Brian Johnson (1-3) gave up two unearned runs and five hits in five innings for Boston. He struck out five.
Detroit took the lead in the second after Victor Martinez reached on an error by third baseman Rafael Devers, playing his first game since being reinstated from the disabled list. Devers fielded Martinez’s grounder well behind third and his throw went past first, enabling Martinez to arrive safely.
That miscue proved costly when Iglesias came up with two outs and hit a two-run double, giving the Tigers a 2-0 lead.
Fiers was with the World Series champion Astros last year, but did not pitch in the postseason. He made one appearance in the playoffs for Houston in 2015.
He’s making a nice case for another chance this season. Fiers threw only two balls through the first two innings Saturday, and he allowed three runs or fewer for the ninth time in his last 10 starts. He struck out Xander Bogaerts for the third out of the fifth with runners on first and third.
Boston threatened again in the sixth, but with two on JaCoby Jones was able to run down Jackie Bradley Jr.’s drive at the warning track in left field. In the bottom of the inning, Jeimer Candelario hit a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0, and Iglesias added a two-run homer .
Fiers exited with runners at the corners in the seventh. Alex Wilson got Bogaerts to ground into a double play, ending the inning.
Boston star Mookie Betts had two hits, raising his big league-leading average to .355. He also made a superb catch in right field in the third, reaching above the wall to catch Leonys Martin’s drive.
“I really needed that,” Johnson said. “We’re so lucky to have this outfield. It is almost scary how many times they make plays like that. They almost seem routine, but they really aren’t.”
The Red Sox have been held to one run so far in this series by Detroit, although they did win the opener 1-0 on Friday night.
“Boston’s scored one run in two games, and that’s hard to do,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “That says a lot about our pitching staff.”