KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Chris Sale strode to the dugout after the seventh inning Wednesday night, and Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora asked his lanky left-hander whether he could keep going on a hot, humid night in Kansas City.
“I’ll finish this off,” Sale replied.
Did he ever.
Sale struck out the side on nine pitches in the eighth for his second immaculate inning this season. Then the seven-time All-Star breezed through the Royals in the ninth, wrapping up an 8-0 win for his third career shutout.
“Any time you can finish a game, that’s what you sign up for,” said Sale, who allowed just three hits while striking out 12 without a walk. “I’ve never started a game I didn’t intend to finish.”
Sale (2-7) has rebounded from a dismal April to put together a series of solid starts. His seventh double-digit strikeout game of the season was punctuated by that perfect eighth, when even Royals fans roared as he mowed through Kelvin Gutierrez, Nicky Lopez and Martin Maldonado.
Sale also had an immaculate inning May 8 against Baltimore, making him the second pitcher with two in one season since strikeout records have been kept. Lefty Grove did it in 1928.
“That was one of his best,” Cora said about Sale’s outing.
Boston’s ace had plenty of help: Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a three-run double during a four-run fifth that broke the game open, and Rafael Devers homered and finished with three RBIs.
“We did a lot of good things offensively,” Cora said, “but we can still be better.”
Hard to imagine. The Red Sox have won three straight, scoring eight runs in each game. They’ve also won five straight at Kauffman Stadium dating to last season.
They jumped ahead against Royals starter Jakob Junis (4-6) with two runs in the first. And after the young right-hander settled down for a while, stranding runners at the corners in the second, Andrew Benintendi’s leadoff double in the fifth sparked the Red Sox onslaught.
By the time they loaded the bases later in the inning, and Bradley proceeded to empty them, Junis was headed for the showers and Boston was headed for another easy win.
“First inning didn’t go great, but I battled and made pitches when I needed to I felt like,” said Junis, who allowed six runs on eight hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings. “It wasn’t all as bad as it looked tonight, I think. I made some better pitches than the scoreboard shows.”
Still, it was the fifth straight loss for Kansas City, which fell to 19-42 — the second-worst start through that many games in club history. Twenty-three defeats have come in games the Royals at one point led, including the series opener against Boston on Tuesday night.
“It was just one of those nights where we couldn’t do much,” manager Ned Yost said.
Stats and streaks
The Red Sox have homered in 22 of their last 25 games. … Sale was making his 300th big league appearance. He also won his fifth straight in Kansas City. … Benintendi and Brock Holt each had three hits. Holt also drove in a run. … Junis has allowed first-inning runs in eight of 13 starts. … Kansas City has been shut out three times this season. … First base umpire Dan Iassogna twice had calls overturned by replay. The combined time of the delays was just 1 minute, 23 seconds.
The Red Sox concluded the first-year player draft with a couple of notable picks, including 1B Ryan Berardino in the 34th round. His grandfathers are longtime minor league manager Dick Berardino and former Boston outfielder Dwight Evans.
The Royals went heavy on college players in the draft. Among those chosen on Day 3 was UC Irvine right-hander Jonah DiPoto, the son of Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto, and Indiana State third baseman Jake Means, whose brother John pitched for Baltimore on Wednesday night.
Red Sox: 1B Mitch Moreland (lower back) will likely be activated for Friday night’s series opener at Tampa Bay, Cora said. Moreland has been hitting off a tee the past couple of days.
The Red Sox will go with Ryan Weber (1-1, 4.50 ERA) as an opener with Michael Shawaryn backing him up in Thursday’s series finale. The Royals counter with Danny Duffy (3-2, 4.05).