Bobby Dalbec homered to back an efficient Chris Sale in his return from COVID-19, and the Boston Red Sox thumped the visiting Baltimore Orioles 7-1 in the opener of a three-game series Friday.
Hunter Renfroe blew the contest open with a three-game double in the sixth inning as the Red Sox (84-65) won their third straight. Boston holds a half-game lead over the New York Yankees for the American League’s top wild card, with the Toronto Blue Jays a game back after a loss Friday.
Austin Hays hit a solo shot for the Orioles (47-100), who sealed their third 100-loss season in the last four years.
Sale (4-0) was activated from the COVID-19 injured list earlier in the day to make his first start since Sept. 6. His fastball noticeably a few ticks slower than usual, the left-hander had to get crafty on the mound.
After surrendering Hays’ blast to lead off the second, Sale retired 11 straight batters — eight on groundouts. He finished five innings allowing the one run on two hits and no walks with one strikeout.
Boston quickly seized a 2-1 lead with a Jose Iglesias RBI double and an Enrique Hernandez sacrifice fly in the bottom of the second.
Dalbec’s homer to kick off the fourth was his 23rd of the season. The rookie has gone deep 13 times in 50 games since the All-Star break.
After a J.D. Martinez RBI double in the fifth made it 4-1, two singles and a walk set the table for Renfroe’s bases-clearing two-bagger an inning later.
Reliever Matt Barnes also returned from the COVID-19 injured list for the Red Sox and worked around a walk and a single in the eighth.
Alex Verdugo finished with three hits and two runs scored, and Christian Vazquez added two hits.
Orioles starter Keegan Akin (2-10) took the loss, giving up four runs on six hits and three walks over four-plus innings.
–Field Level Media