BOSTON -- Chris Sale wanted to take it all in. He has a new outlook on his big league career.
"When I stepped out of the dugout, I knew there was going to be something. I wasn't expecting all that," Sale said. "I was just trying to soak in moments. This isn't going to last forever."
Sale, 32, completed his return from Tommy John surgery by pitching five innings, giving up two runs on consecutive homers by Austin Hays and Trey Mancini in the third. Relying mostly on his sharp slider, the lanky left-hander struck out eight and walked none to get the win.
"Today was a special day for me and a lot of other people," Sale said. "Like I said, this game was ripped out of my hands. I had a hole in my chest for two years. I'll be completely honest, I took days for granted. ... Through all of this, I've had a huge perspective change. I can tell you one thing: I'm not wasting another day of my big league career."
Rafael Devers got Boston off to a fast start with a three-run homer in the first against Jorge Lopez (3-13). J.D. Martinez hit a three-run homer for the Red Sox, and Bobby Dalbec added a solo shot during a seven-run fifth inning -- right after Sale left to a loud ovation.
Dalbec hit his second solo homer an inning later, and Hunter Renfroe connected in the eighth.
When Sale (1-0) finished the fifth, he was greeted with a handshake then a hug from manager Alex Cora.
"It was a good feeling, man," Cora said. "I haven't had that feeling in a while. I know '19 was a grind for him, spring training through the season, it was really hard.
"I will never forget that moment when we got back to the clubhouse [today]."
Sale, who was activated from the 60-day injured list before Saturday's contest, last pitched in the majors when he started on Aug. 13, 2019. The seven-time All-Star had surgery on his 31st birthday -- March 30, 2020 -- and missed last year's pandemic-shortened season.
Sale's return created an electric atmosphere on a steamy afternoon at Fenway Park. When he walked to the bullpen to warm up, he was greeted with cheers. Many fans clamored for a good look, trying to get near the bullpen, and were taking cellphone photos and videos, applauding nearly every pitch. When he was done, Sale gave catcher Christian Vazquez a big hug before bumping fists with the rest of the members of the team out there and walking to the dugout to a huge ovation.
"I don't know if I felt one step out to the bullpen. It was amazing," Sale said.
Many of the fans were on their feet when Hays foul tipped Sale's 94.2 mph first pitch.
"He was amazing. He was great," Cora said of Sale. "Today was a special day for this organization, what he went through, him grinding through the whole process and not feeling good about himself because he wasn't able to contribute for the first time in his career."
Red Sox outfielder/designated hitter Kyle Schwarber was given the day off after he made his debut Friday night, with Cora saying, "We've got to take care of him."
Schwarber had been out since July 2 with a strained right hamstring and missed two weeks after he was acquired from the Washington Nationals.
Cora said Schwarber will be in the lineup on Sunday and, after the club is off Monday, will play in at least one game of Tuesday's doubleheader at Yankee Stadium.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.