Batter No. 2 – Kevin Kiermaier
Kevin Kiermaier does not seem like a formidable opponent for Sale. Kiermaier is, of course, one of baseball’s best defensive outfielders and in recent years he’s been a slightly above average hitter; however, he is left-handed and strikes out a lot. Despite this, Kiermaier has had success against Sale in his career, going 5-for-14 with a home run against the southpaw. Opening Day, however, would not go as well for Kiermaier.
Sale’s first pitch was a change that missed up and in. It was a bit of a hiccup, but the rest of the at-bat would go much smoother. Sale then broke off a slider right down broadway that froze Kiermaier and followed that up with a buzzsaw of a two-seamer that Kiermaier half-heartedly swung at and tapped foul.
Now, with a 1-2 count, Sale could have tried to toy with Kiermaier and get him to chase – after all the number three hitter, Carlos Gomez, is not the greatest lineup protection – but Sale was having none of that. After already being forced to throw an ungodly six pitches to Duffy, he went straight after Kiermaier. Sale threw a 97 mph fastball on the upper outside corner that Kiermaier could only dream of catching up with.
Just like that, Sale had set down his first two opponents of 2018 on strikes. As we saw in both situations, Sale has complete faith in his fastball and can spot it on a dime. If you watch carefully, you’ll notice that on all the four-seamers Vazques barely even moves his glove. Against a more potent lineup, perhaps Vazquez and Sale would have been more cautious putting fastballs over the plate. Against a mediocre Rays offense, however, there was no doubt that Sale could blow away his opponents with sheer heat.