NEW YORK — In his first season with the Boston Red Sox, Chris Sale has done everything right against the New York Yankees except get a win.
Sale looks to get his first victory against the Yankees on Sunday night when the Red Sox conclude the season series with their rivals at Yankee Stadium.
The Red Sox will be trying to get a split of the four-game series and go 5 1/2 games up for the fourth time. The Yankees will be trying to get three out of four and get to within 3 1/2 games of Boston after Matt Holliday hit a three-run homer off Drew Pomeranz in the sixth inning of Saturday’s 5-1 win.
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“That’s the goal (winning the East) that we’re focused on,” Yankees third baseman Chase Headley said. “We certainly aren’t focused on anything but winning the division.”
The Yankees are 3-1 in the four games Sale has opposed them because they pitched well enough and scored late against the relievers.
Sale is 15-6 with a 2.77 ERA in his first season for the Red Sox. He might have more wins but the Red Sox have scored seven runs in his four starts against the Yankees.
The lack of run support makes Sale 0-2 with a 2.12 ERA against the Yankees this season. In those games, the left-hander has allowed seven earned runs in 29 2/3 innings while accumulating 44 strikeouts to go along with five walks.
“He’s been very special for us,” Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. said. “He’s been able to go out and compete every five days. Every time he steps on the mound, we feel we have a great opportunity to win ballgames.”
Sale is 4-3 with a 1.51 ERA in 14 career appearances (11 starts) against the Yankees.
New York’s hitters are batting .204 versus Sale this season. Only Brett Gardner (3-for-10) and Aaron Hicks (4-of-11) have done decently against him (minimum 10 at-bats). Aaron Judge is 0-for-10 with eight strikeouts, Gary Sanchez is 2-for-10 with five strikeouts and Headley is 2-for-13.
Sale is pitching after posting a 4.38 ERA in six starts last month. His ERA was inflated by allowing six earned runs in three innings Aug. 24 at Cleveland but Sale rebounded by striking out 11 in seven innings during a 3-0 victory at Toronto on Tuesday.
“It seemed like a month,” Sale said about waiting for his next start after that loss. “Anytime you go out there and have a bad one, you want to get right back out there. As a competitor, that’s what you want to do, you want to get back out there and right the ship.”
Sale also reached 1,500 strikeouts in the second inning, accomplishing the milestone in his 1,290th career inning. It is the fewest innings for any pitcher to reach 1,5000 strikeouts, surpassing the first 1,303 innings of Kerry Wood, according to STATS.
“You marvel at his pitch ability, you marvel at his overall stuff,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “He’s blessed with such uniqueness from a delivery standpoint and physical abilities. It’s hard for to fathom that a guy can record that many strikeouts in less than 1,300 innings. Really remarkable.”
Among the reasons for Sale going winless against the Yankees are the opposing starting pitchers.
Jordan Montgomery started the only time the Red Sox beat the Yankees in a start made by Sale on Aug. 13 and the rookie pitched well before the Red Sox won it in the 10th inning.
Masahiro Tanaka pitched a three-hitter against Sale on April 27 and CC Sabathia allowed two runs in six innings when he opposed Sale Aug. 19 in Fenway. On Sunday, Luis Severino faces Sale for the second time this season.
Severino opposed Sale in New York’s 16-inning win July 15. He held the Red Sox to one run and four hits in seven innings and would have taken a 1-0 loss before Holliday homered off Craig Kimbrel.
The right-hander is 1-1 with a 4.42 ERA in three starts against the Red Sox, who roughed him up for 10 runs in 4 1/3 innings Aug. 12. Overall, he is 1-4 with a 5.05 ERA in seven career appearances (six starts) against Boston.
Like many Yankee pitchers he has struggled against Andrew Benintendi. Benintendi is hitting .387(12-for-31) with five homers and 12 RBIs in Yankee Stadium this season and is 6-for-11 with two homers off Severino.
Since getting rocked by the Red Sox, Severino is 2-1 with a 1.83 ERA in his last three starts. He last pitched Monday when he opposed Corey Kluber and allowed four runs in 6 2/3 innings of a 6-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
Facing the other’s team ace is nothing new for Severino. Besides facing Sale and Kluber, Severino also has opposed Felix Hernandez, Jose Quintana, Jon Lester, Marcus Stroman and Michael Fulmer.
Benintendi is among the few hitters to do well at Yankee Stadium this season for Boston, which is 0-for-15 with runners scoring position in the series, 6-for-51 in New York and hitting .148 in that situation during the season series.