Step 1: Get a good start.
Chris Sale walked a season-high five guys, but it wasn't due to a lack of stuff. It was partially because he was being careful around a top-heavy Toronto lineup. He walked Edwin Encarnacion twice, which was part of the plan. He also walked Colby Rasmus twice, which wasn't. But it was clear that he'd rather take his chances with the bottom four spots in the order, and that strategy almost backfired when Darin Mastroianni took a third straight Sale changeup over the wall in left center for a two-run homer.
(Pissed Sale ramped it up to 97 after that homer, so he wasn't missing anything from his arsenal.)
But ultimately, the strategy worked. That homer accounted for the only two runs Sale allowed over seven innings. He allowed four hits on top of those five walks, but he struck out six and looked more composed than the BB column indicates. And it was good enough to run up his record to 7-1, although for a while it looked like Marcus Stroman might outpitch him.
No. 2: Wait for Cuba Cubed to show up.
Stroman retired 20 of the first 22 batters he faced, using his 95-mph fastball and power curve to subdue the Sox offense the first two times through the lineup. With two outs in the seventh, he had Jose Abreu down 0-2. You'd think he could bounce a breaking ball or two in the dirt, and it'd be on to the eighth inning.
But Abreu took a slider in the dirt and a fastball away to even the count, then roped the next fastball to the left-center gap for a double to keep the inning alive. Adam Dunn followed with a walk, and with the diminutive rookie nearing 100 pitches, John Gibbons went to the bullpen for Dustin McGowan against Dayan Viciedo.
That idea failed as fast as it could, because McGowan hung a breaking ball, and Viciedo crushed it to the second deck in left. With one pitch, the Sox went from trailing 2-0 to leading 3-2.
Likewise, the Sox tacked on their fourth and final run in the eighth after two on and nobody out. Encarnacion could only block Adam Eaton's hard grounder for an infield single, and Gordon Beckham smacked one up the middle. With Conor Gillaspie coming to the plate, Gibbons called for sidewinding lefty Aaron Loup. Robin Ventura answered with Alexei Ramirez -- who didn't start for the first time all season -- and Ramirez dropped a single to left to give the Sox a 4-2 lead. The Sox bullpen made the insurance run necessary.
No. 3: Hang on for dear life.
Zach Putnam could've easily had more breathing room, because the Sox loaded the bases to start the ninth, but didn't score because Dunn was the lead runner, and Paul Konerko takes up a spot on the bench that could be used for a pinch-runner or defensive replacement.
At least Putnam had a two-run lead, and that came in handy after Anthony Gose started the inning with a double and scored on a Munenori Kawasaki bloop single, which turned the lineup over. But Putnam didn't let the Blue Jays' good hitters faze him. He retired Jose Reyes on a 3-6 fielder's choice, induced a routine flyout from Melky Cabrera, and, after a mound visit, set down Encarnacion on a bouncer to short to record his first save and finally get the Sox off the Saturday schneid.
*Dunn had a terrific game, going 2-for-2 with a double and two walks. It's not his fault he's not fast, but perhaps the Sox should figure out which one of their pitchers can run the fastest without hurting himself if Ventura ever has to choose between a defensive replacement, a pinch runner or losing the DH.
*Ventura managed the game well, although I questioned his replacing Eric Surkamp in the eighth inning. Surkamp struck out Adam Lind for the second out of the inning, and with a runner on first and Steve Tolleson coming to the plate, I probably would've left him in and saved the pitcher. Using Putnam for the last four outs ended up negating that concern, though.