BOSTON — Chris Sale pleaded but did not push when manager Alex Cora told him his day was done.
Cora was not about to risk the health his ace left-hander, even after he struck out a career-high 17 over seven innings. Sale may have righted whatever went wrong during an 0-5 start, but Cora still went to the bullpen for the eighth, costing Sale the chance to chase the major league record of 20 strikeouts in a nine-inning game.
Even after the Rockies rallied to a 5-4 win in the 11th, Cora and Sale seemed comfortable saying the skipper made the right call.
“AC’s got two handshakes, and you get one or the other. And you know which one is the ‘done’ one,” Sale said. “I’d love to have gone back out there, but as I said, I’ll never question anything he does.”
Sale became the first pitcher in major league history to fan 17 in a start of no more than seven innings. Boston pitchers combined to strike out 24, but the Red Sox had their five-game winning streak come to an end.
Sale, who isn’t the most cheerful guy in the clubhouse even after a win, couldn’t help but smile a little after this one.
“I love this game and to be able to have a chance at doing something like that is special,” Sale said. “But at the same time, it’s still a close game. You’ve got a job to do and you just try to hold it down when you can.”
Mark Reynolds, whose fifth-inning double was the first runner allowed by Sale, drove in the go-ahead run with a two-out single in the 11th against Ryan Brasier (2-2).
“You never know what’s going to happen. So I think all of us who were here tonight witnessed two walks, 24 strikeouts, but a Rockie win,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “We just stayed at it. Man, it was a hell of a game.”
Sale struck out the first six batters and fanned eight through three innings. He dominated the Rockies with a firm fastball and sharp slider, topping his previous best of 15 strikeouts, which he had done three times.
The All-Star lefty sported his signature short-sleeves despite the 44-degree temperature at the start of the game and had a shutout through six innings.
Nolan Arenado’s two-run homer in the seventh was one of only three hits the Rockies managed against Sale.
“I had terrible timing with giving up the runs I did,” Sale said. “That was the one that got them back in this game and gave them a breath of fresh air.”
Sale stopped the damage with three straight strikeouts, placing him within range of the major league record shared by Roger Clemens, Kerry Wood, Randy Johnson and Max Scherzer.
“That was fun to watch. First time I’ve been in something like that, you know, watching the strikeouts and watching the pitch count,” Cora said. “We wanted him to go deep. He was amazing.”
Boston fans chanted “We want Sale!” after the bottom of the seventh, but his night was done. When Cora told him he was coming out, Sale used his fingers to form the number 20.
Cora didn’t bite and went to Brandon Workman, who allowed a double by Chris Iannetta and Charlie Blackmon’s two-run homer with two outs in the eighth to give Colorado its first lead at 4-3.
Sale’s 17 strikeouts were the most for a Red Sox pitcher since Pedro Martinez fanned 17 against Tampa Bay on May 6, 2000.
Mike Dunn (1-0) got the win with one inning of scoreless relief and Wade Davis got his seventh save.
Michael Chavis, J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers homered for Boston.
Boston made it 4-all in the eighth on a pinch-hit single by Mitch Moreland.
Chavis led off the second with his seventh homer, a 451-foot shot to left that survived a video review ordered crew chief Larry Vanover. Martinez and Devers added solo homers in the third to put Boston up 3-0.
Kyle Freeland got the start for Colorado on his 26th birthday and went six innings, allowing three runs on five hits, striking out seven and walking three.
Rockies: LHP Tyler Anderson (left knee inflammation) saw a specialist Monday and will consult with team doctors about potential surgery, Black said. “I think a decision on some surgery is in the works here probably within the next couple days,” Black said. … Colorado recalled 3B Pat Valaika from Triple-A Albuquerque and optioned 2B Garrett Hampson to the Isotopes.
Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia (left knee) remained in limbo after a rehab assignment was postponed over the weekend. Cora said Pedroia and the Red Sox are being careful not to rush the 35-year-old’s return. “He’ll go out there and then take grounders and move around and we’ll decide what we do next,” Cora said. … LHP David Price (left elbow tendinitis) will likely throw another bullpen session Wednesday and could return to the rotation Saturday against Houston, Cora said.
Rockies: RHP German Marquez (4-2, 3.43 ERA) has struck out 59 through 57 2/3 innings this season.
Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (4-2, 4.53) has won two straight starts and three of his last four.