CHICAGO — So much for any lingering concern about Eduardo Rodriguez's right ankle.
He answered every question with a pile of Ks.
Rodriguez struck out 12 in 5 2/3 innings in his return from an ankle injury, leading the Boston Red Sox over the Chicago White Sox 6-1 on Saturday night.
"Best stuff of the season," manager Alex Cora said. "Location, mix of pitches, tempo, that was impressive."
Jackie Bradley Jr., Ian Kinsler and Eduardo Nunez homered as AL East-leading Boston maintained its 7½-game lead over the New York Yankees, who held off Detroit for a 2-1 win. The Red Sox won for the fourth time in five games to run the majors' best record to 94-43, already one more victory than they had when they won the division each of the past two years.
Rodriguez (12-3) allowed one run and three hits in his first major league appearance since he sprained his right ankle while covering first against Toronto on July 14. The left-hander retired his first 12 batters, striking out 10.
"All my pitches were right where I wanted," he said.
It was a welcome development for a Boston team already missing ace Chris Sale and fellow lefty David Price because of injuries.
"We know that we're searching for outs and for starters and everything. That was great for us," Cora said. "He'll be ready for his next start, we know that. There's no limitations."
Carlos Rodon (6-4) kept the White Sox in the game for a while before committing a costly error in the seventh. With one out and runners on second and third, the lefty fielded Andrew Benintendi's comebacker and threw wildly to first, allowing Christian Vazquez to come home.
"Right now, I just can't believe I did that," Rodon said. "But I did it and just got to turn the page."
Steve Pearce and J.D. Martinez then hit run-scoring singles as Boston opened a 5-1 lead. Kinsler added a solo drive on a 3-0 pitch from Ryan Burr in the eighth.
Rodon was charged with five runs, four earned, and six hits in 6 1/3 innings in his first loss since June 30. He was 5-0 with a 1.84 ERA in his previous nine starts.
"You give a good club like that extra outs and they take advantage of it," manager Rick Renteria said.
The 25-year-old Rodon was sailing along before Nunez and Bradley connected in the fifth, powering the Red Sox to a 2-0 lead. Nunez's 10th homer was originally ruled a double, but the call was overturned when a replay review showed his leadoff drive caromed off a railing above the wall in left.
Rodriguez extended his scoreless streak to 24 innings before Nicky Delmonico hit an RBI double in the sixth. Cora then brought in Ryan Brasier, who struck out Avisail Garcia to end the inning.
The White Sox promoted left-handers Aaron Bummer and Caleb Frare from Triple-A Charlotte. Bummer and Frare join a group of young relievers auditioning for more prominent roles in Chicago's bullpen in 2019.
The 25-year-old Frare is looking to make his major league debut after he was acquired in a trade with the Yankees on July 29 for international bonus pool money. He went 1-0 with a 0.71 ERA in 11 appearances with the Knights.
"It's really cool that they're considering me to be a part of their future, and I'm excited to be here," Frare said.
The Red Sox recalled five players from Triple-A Pawtucket: first baseman/outfielder Sam Travis, infielder Tzu-Wei Lin, lefties Robby Scott and Bobby Poyner and right-hander William Cuevas.
Red Sox: Price (bruised left wrist) played catch. "He feels OK," Cora said. "He's gonna try and pick it up tomorrow and see how he feels." It's unclear when Price will make his next start. ... 3B Rafael Devers (strained left hamstring) could continue his rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket through the end of the minor league schedule on Monday. "We'll take it day by day, but he needs the at-bats," Cora said. "He'll benefit from that." ... Rodriguez, Vazquez (broken finger) and knuckleballer Steven Wright (left knee inflammation) were activated from the 10-day disabled list. Vazquez got the start and went 0 for 3 with a walk.
White Sox: Garcia left after six innings because of right knee soreness. He is day to day. ... RHP Nate Jones was transferred to the 60-day disabled list. Jones is out with a strained right arm.
Red Sox left-hander Brian Johnson (4-3, 4.02 ERA) and White Sox right-hander James Shields (5-15, 4.54 ERA) pitch in the series finale on Sunday. Johnson is 4-1 with a 3.51 ERA in his 11 starts this year. Shields has one win and a 4.83 ERA over his last eight outings.