BOSTON -- As it turned out, all Chris Sale needed to get his first win in a Red Sox uniform was just a hint of run support.
The lefty (1-1, 1.25 ERA) was dominant throughout a seven-inning masterpiece, allowing three hits and a run while walking three and striking out 12 while leading Boston to a tense 2-1 victory over the Rays.
Over Sale's first two starts for the Red Sox, the offense scored a total of one run during the 14 2/3 innings he was the pitcher of record. This time, they scored two over his seven innings, and it turned out to be enough.
"It was fun," said Sale. "This is a very fun place to pitch. Getting, I guess, the proverbial monkey off your back is nice. It makes you feel more comfortable. Obviously being here for a couple of weeks now and going through it, it's nice to get that one over with and we can keep cruising."
Three starts into his tenure with the Red Sox, Sale has already created a must-watch aspect to the day he pitches.
"Dominant, strong, any adjective you want to attach to it," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "He's got three power-type pitches for a lot of swing-and-miss. And let's face it, three starts he's made for us, he's not had any margin of error. We're able to push across a run late, but he's worth the price of admission just to see him. But just a strong, strong day from Chris."
Sandy Leon broke a 1-1 tie with a fielder's-choice grounder to second in the seventh. Craig Kimbrel closed out Tampa Bay with a perfect ninth for his fourth save.
The Rays dealt with some early adversity when starter Jake Odorizzi had to exit just one pitch into the second inning due to left hamstring tightness. Erasmo Ramirez came in on short notice, and his first pitch was hammered into the seats in right by Mitch Moreland to make it 1-0, Red Sox.
"It's just one of those things, you never know when it might happen, but I felt really good going up until that point," said Odorizzi, who was hit in the same spot by a line drive during his start versus Toronto last Sunday, and was placed on the 10-day disabled list following Saturday's loss. "It was a product of last start and the bruising that had developed."
Moreland capitalized on the abrupt switch with a rocket, the hardest batted ball he's had in the Statcast™ era at 113.1 mph. It traveled an estimated distance of 431 feet. That was the only misfire for Ramirez, who went four innings, allowing three hits and the one run. The only time Sale was in any kind of trouble was the third, when Evan Longoria tied the game with an RBI single and Rickie Weeks Jr. walked to load the bases. But Sale struck out Derek Norris on a nasty slider to escape the threat.
"You know you're going into the game against a very, very dominant pitcher, and he was every bit the part today," said Rays manager Kevin Cash. "I was happy, we were all pleased with the guys and how they went out and competed against him. We drove his pitch count up; it wasn't easy. He's tough. You tip your cap and we plan to get him the next time we face him."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Young walk key to go-ahead rally: The Red Sox are still having trouble getting the big hit, but Chris Young got them a big walk in the bottom of the seventh that led to Leon's go-ahead RBI. The veteran right-handed hitter was down 0-2 before drawing his bases on ball on the sixth pitch of the at-bat by Tommy Hunter to load the bases with one out.
"A big at-bat," said Farrell. "He tries to bunt on his own with a little bit of the shift that they're playing, first-and-third situation, so finally he takes a couple borderline pitches, a couple curveballs that were left in off the plate, so it's a big at-bat inside building the inning."
Barnes gets key DP to erase rally: Just after Boston had taken a 2-1 lead, Matt Barnes got into some trouble with back-to-back, one-out walks in the eighth. But the hard-throwing righty made the big pitch he needed, inducing the dangerous Longoria into a 5-4-3 double play on a 95.8-mph four-seamer.
"Yeah, that's how you like it. I like going out there and being in those games. I want to be that guy that can get a 'W' in those games. If they've all got to be like that, so be it. I look forward to the challenge." -- Sale, on pitching in all low-scoring games so far this season
"On my warmup pitches, it was just there. It wasn't painful, I just noticed it, so I knew I wasn't going to be able to compete at the level I want to compete at. There was no use in me trying to gut through it. I think we got it in time, so I'll be ready in however many days it is." -- Odorizzi
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Since the start of the 2012 season, Sale has 21 games of 12 strikeouts or more, the most in the Major Leagues over that span.
Tampa Bay challenged a call in the top of the sixth inning on a fly ball hit by Longoria down the right-field line, which was ruled a foul ball after a fan had caught it. The Rays argued that the spectator had reached over for the ball, but replay concluded that there was no fan interference and the call on the field stood.
WHAT'S NEXT Rays: Right-hander Alex Cobb, who returned from Tommy John surgery late last season, makes his first Fenway Park start since Sept. 23, 2014, on Sunday at 1:35 p.m. ET. Both of his starts this season have come against the Yankees, where he split the decisions for a 1-1 mark with a 3.46 ERA.
Red Sox: Lefty Drew Pomeranz will try to build off a strong first start of the season when he faces the Rays in Sunday afternoon's third game of this four-game series. Pomeranz got the win in his season debut against the Orioles, giving up four hits and a run over six-plus innings.