Red Sox: Chris Sale’s Cy Young bid comes to a crashing end

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 26: Chris Sale /

Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale’s rocky ride to the finish line may have clinched the Cy Young race for Cleveland’s Corey Kluber.

It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. Chris Sale was on a historic path through the first half of the season, leading us to believe he had locked up the Cy Young Award by July. The ace of the Boston Red Sox was even being mentioned in MVP conversations. Then we reached the final stretch of the race and Sale’s campaign for the hardware came to a crashing end.

Sale lasted only five innings in what may end up being his final start of the season. He was blasted for five runs, tying a career-high with four home runs allowed, as the Toronto Blue Jays handed him his eighth loss of the season.

This only begins to explain the roller coaster ride that was Sale’s month of September. It began in New York when he failed to make it out of the fifth inning in a loss to the Yankees. He bounced back by shutting out the Tampa Bay Rays, only to cough up four runs against those Rays his next time out. Sale produced arguably his most dominant outing of the year last week by blanking the Baltimore Orioles over eight innings, renewing faith that he was primed for the postseason. Then he served batting practice to a Toronto squad he had dominated throughout his career.

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Now the Red Sox can’t be certain which version of Sale they’ll get as they charge into the playoffs.

Meanwhile, Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber is putting together one of the most dominant second halves in recent memory. He’s 11-1 with a 1.79 ERA and 139 strikeouts over 105 1/3 innings since the break.

Kluber’s late surge has pushed him ahead of the fading Sale in the Cy Young debate. As dominant as Sale was through most of the season, Kluber’s numbers still stack up favorably against his in the end. Below you’ll find a comparison between their current season statistics, with their ranking among American League pitchers in parenthesis.

 Wins ERA WHIP Strikeouts K/9 K/BB WAR
 Sale 17 (3rd) 2.90 (2nd) 0.97 (2nd) 308 (1st) 12.93 (1st) 7.16 (2nd) 5.9 (2nd)
 Kluber 18 (1st) 2.27 (1st) 0.86 (1st) 262 (2nd) 11.87 (2nd) 7.28 (1st) 7.8 (1st)

The edge goes to Kluber in most of the significant categories that Cy Young voters will consider. The biggest advantage in Sale’s favor is the staggering strikeout total and there’s no doubt that the 300 K milestone will give voters pause before casting a ballot for Kluber. The gap in strikeout total stems from Sale making four more starts and tossing over 15 more innings than Kluber, who spent a brief stint on the disabled list this season. The additional workload is a feather in the cap of Sale but will it be enough?

My guess would be no, especially if Kluber narrows the gap by making his scheduled start on Saturday for an Indians team still vying for home-field advantage. A strong outing against a woeful Chicago White Sox team could be the cherry on top of Kluber’s dominant second half.

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Sale’s first season in Boston has been outstanding but his September swoon will leave him settling for the silver medal.