BOSTON (AP) — Chris Sale is still searching for answers — and a victory, too.
The Boston Red Sox ace remained winless in six starts this season, giving up Daniel Robertson’s two-run homer in the first inning and Yandy Diaz’s two-run triple in the second during a 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday.
“I keep saying the same things over and over: It’s a step in the right direction,” Sale said. “Nobody wants to hear that, but I’d love to be sitting up here talking about wins and all that. At the end of the day, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. I’m grinding. I’m trying to find a way.”
Sale (0-5) gave up four runs — two earned — four hits and three walks in seven innings with eight strikeouts, lowering his ERA from 7.43 to 6.30. After signing a $160 million, six-year contract in spring training, the 30-year-old left-hander is off to the worst start of his big league career.
Tyler Glasnow (5-0) gave up two runs and five hits in 6 2/3 innings with nine strikeouts, tying for the big league lead in wins. Glasnow has allowed two runs or fewer in all six starts this season. The 25-year-old righty was excited to have faced Sale.
“He’s an unbelievable pitcher. He’s been one of my favorites for a long time,” Glasnow said. “I still am able to step back and realize how cool the situation is, just to be able to throw against guys like that.”
After getting swept in Florida by the Red Sox in a three-game series last weekend, the AL East-leading Rays won both games in the rain-shortened series at Fenway Park. Tampa Bay improved to a major league-best 18-9 and has won eight of nine series this year.
“I could care less really,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said of the return sweep, “It’s more about winning games. It doesn’t matter who it’s against.”
The Red Sox dropped to 11-17, 7½ games behind the Rays.
“We’ve got to start winning games,” Sale said. “We’ve got to find a way, keep doing what we’re doing and just hope the other end of it changes. We’re doing everything we’ve got to do. It’s just not there right now.”
Boston slugger J.D. Martinez missed his second straight game with back spasms.
Sale’s second pitch of the game was a slider that was about 2 feet wide, then he missed badly inside with another slider before Diaz hit a changeup to the base of the Green Monster for a double. After striking out the next hitter, Robertson hit Sale’s first pitch - a 91 mph fastball - into the seats above the Green Monster.
Diaz tripled over center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.‘s leaping try, driving in two runs that were unearned because third baseman Rafael Devers booted Willie Adames’ potential inning-ending double-play grounder for his eighth error, second in the majors behind 11 by Seattle infielder Tim Beckham.
“Obviously, velocity wasn’t there,” Boston manager Alex Cora said. “Early in the game he struggled with command, but after that he found it.”
Rays: RHP Hunter Wood was reinstated from the family medical emergency list and RHP Austin Pruitt was optioned to Triple-A Durham.
Red Sox: Cora said 2B Dustin Pedroia (10-day IL, left knee irritation) will most likely start a rehab assignment with Double-A Portland Thursday. ... INF Eduardo Núñez (IL, mid-back strain) is slated to start a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket Monday.
Diego Castillo worked the ninth for his third save. Five relievers have saves for the Rays this season.
The Rays hadn’t swept a series of two games or more in Fenway Park since a two-game set in September 2012.
At the end of the eighth, the Red Sox showed highlights of the Celtics’ Game 1 victory over Milwaukee in the NBA playoffs, playing the song from the Bee Gees “You Should Be Dancing” or better known as “Gino” in the background to Boston fans. It’s played after Celtics wins at TD Garden.
Rays: RHP Ryne Stanek (0-0, 1.32 ERA) will start Monday’s opener of a four-game series in Kansas City.
Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodríguez (2-2, 5.88) looks to build off his best start Monday in the opener of a three-game series at home versus Oakland. He gave up only one run and two hits over six innings Wednesday.