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Chris Sale channels the ace of old at former home

Chris Sale was all over his former team, shaving more than a run off his ERA in his first victory of the year.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images/Getty Images

CHICAGO — The version of Chris Sale the Red Sox need to get back in contention showed up at Guaranteed Rate Field on Friday night.

He wasn’t on time, the season having started a month ago. But he’s not too late, either.

Sale overwhelmed the Chicago White Sox with six shutout innings and the Red Sox came away with a 6-1 victory.

Sale allowed three hits, walked one and struck out 10. Rafael Devers and Michael Chavis hit long home runs.

The Red Sox have won 4 of 5 and six of their last nine games. They will have Eduardo Rodriguez on the mound Saturday night against Manny Banuelos.


“Got back to some old things I used to do,” Sale said. “Things that made me successful.”

Sale did not get into details other than to say he was better focused and aggressive in certain counts.

It showed in how he pitched.

“I think last year he took off May 6 in Texas. We were talking about that. He pitched well today,” manager Alex Cora said. “You have to stick with the process. We’ve been very patient, obviously.”

Cora is correct that Sale showed better velocity in that start in Texas. But he had a 2.14 earned run average in the six starts prior. He came into Friday’s game with a worrisome 6.30 ERA.

There has been progress. Sale (1-5) allowed four earned runs in 18 innings and struck out 28 in his last three starts.

“We’ve been grinding,” Sale said. “It’s sports. That’s baseball. Sometimes you figure it out.”

Sale didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning and only three runners advanced beyond first base against him, none beyond second.

Sale averaged 93.1 miles per hour with his fastball and topped out at 96.5 on a raw night.

The closest Sale came to giving up a run came in the fifth, when Jose Rondon led off with a double and Sale hit Wellington Castillo in the foot with a wayward breaking ball.


Sale then struck out Ryan Cordell, Adam Engel, and Leury Garcia on 12 pitches to end the inning.

The White Sox did not score until the eighth against Colten Brewer. Righthander Josh Smith, called up on April 26 and unused since April 20 when he was with Triple A Pawtucket, made his Red Sox debut in the ninth inning. He allowed only an infield single.

Down by only five runs, the White Sox used second baseman Jose Rondon to pitch the ninth inning. He allowed two hits but did not give up a run, White Sox manager Rick Renteria saying he opted for a position player because of the likelihood Sunday will be a bullpen day.

Chicago starter Reynaldo Lopez (2-4) needed only five pitches to retire Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts in the first inning.

Then J.D. Martinez doubled to right field, Xander Bogaerts singled off Rondon’s glove, and Devers drove a first-pitch fastball 436 feet to center field for his first home run of the season.

“He started controlling the strike zone and hitting the ball in the air in the last homestand. That was a great swing,” Cora said.

It was a needed lift for Devers, who on Thursday night committed a ninth-inning error that led to the Sox giving up three runs and losing, 6-4.


Lopez didn’t allow a run the next four innings. Then, Michael Chavis hit an even longer home run.

After Devers led off with a single, the first pitch to Chavis was a slider that stayed over the plate. He pulled it down the left field line and high above the foul pole, and it landed 459 feet away.

It was Chavis’s fourth home run in 13 games. He has 10 RBIs. Three of his four home runs have been 441 or more feet.

“The kid, he’s a good hitter,” Cora said. “He’s going to swing and miss, we know that. But you see the quality of the at-bats. When he hit that ball, I was like, ‘Wow, it’s going to go foul.’ But he hit it so hard it didn’t have a chance.”

Sale has faced the White Sox three times since he was traded to the Red Sox before the 2017 season. He has a 2.84 ERA and has struck out 29 in 19 innings. Friday was his second time back on the mound at Guaranteed Rate.

“It’s never not going to be weird. It’s never not going to be something I guess,” Sale said.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.