BOSTON -- Chris Sale is on the kind of early run that has people thinking Cy Young Award for the left-hander.
And now, trying to do what aces are supposed to do, Sale has to play the role of stopper for his team.
Sale, who makes his 10th start of the season when the Red Sox host the Oakland Athletics in the finale of a three-game series at Fenway Park Wednesday night, will try to help the Red Sox salvage a game in the series and end a four-game losing streak against the feisty A's.
In addition, the Red Sox fell to 11-12 since their 17-2 start as the A's posted a rain-delayed 5-3 victory Tuesday night (and eight minutes into Wednesday morning).
"We haven't been able to put them away," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora, whose team has dropped a game behind the New York Yankees in the AL East, with the Yankees idle Monday and then having their game Tuesday in Washington suspended in the sixth inning. "They're young and it seems like they're turning a corner.
"Whatever they're doing over there is pretty good."
So is Sale.
He is 3-1 with a 2.17 ERA, the latter stat fifth in the American League. He was second in the league with 78 strikeouts in 58 innings.
In his last start at Toronto on Friday night, he tied his career high with 15 strikeouts in a nine-inning no-decision. In his last three starts, he has yielded 15 hits and five earned runs, walking three and fanning 33 in 23 innings.
Sale will face Trevor Cahill, who comes off the disabled list (elbow) to pitch for the A's.
Kendall Graveman, Oakland's opening day starter who wound up in the minor leagues, returned to the A's and won at Yankee Stadium last Friday night. Bothered by a sore shin, he was in line to start Wednesday, but manager Bob Melvin is going with Cahill, 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in just four starts this season.
Graveman was sent back to Triple-A to make room for Stephen Piscotty, who homered his first time up Tuesday after coming off the bereavement list following the death of his mother.
"He pitched well in New York, he's still a big part of this team," Melvin said of Graveman. "There's no doubt he'll be back at some point."
Melvin, whose team climbed back to .500 (21-21) on Tuesday, said Monday: "We feel pretty good about starting (Cahill). We have not made that decision yet, but based on what I'm hearing and how he came through his bullpen session, I think we're in a good spot to start him."
There was no indecision in the other clubhouse as Sale looks to continue his early roll.
He is 5-3 with a 2.73 ERA in 14 career games (nine starts) against the A's. He was the pitcher on the losing end of Sean Manaea's April 21 no-hitter, his only loss of the season. Sale went seven innings and yielded three runs in that start.
The current A's have only a .224 combined batting average against Sale. Jed Lowrie is 9-for-23 and Mark Canha 3-for-9 against Sale, but Chad Pinder is 0-for-9 with seven strikeouts, Khris Davis 2-for-14 and Marcus Semien 2-for-9 with each homering against him.
Boston's Eduardo Nunez is 7-for-16 with two homers and Mitch Moreland has a pair of homers and five RBIs against Cahill. But Hanley Ramirez is 3-for-22 against the righty.
The Red Sox placed reliever Carson Smith on the 10-day disabled list Tuesday after he suffered what could be a serious shoulder injury throwing his glove in the dugout after allowing a home run Monday night.
Tuesday's win left the A's 14-0 when leading after seven innings and 16-0 when ahead after eight.