Red Sox: Putting Chris Sale’s Opening Day brilliance under the microscope

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 05: Chris Sale
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 05: Chris Sale /
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Boston Red Sox
BOSTON, MA – OCTOBER 09: Boston Red Sox fans display strike signs in the sixth inning during game four of the American League Division Series between the Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on October 9, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

It was a clean first inning for the lefty. Sale threw only thirteen pitches, but some glimpses of what makes him great were evident. In the inning, Sale threw only one slider, relying instead almost solely on his fastball and changeup. Pitch mix was not the main concern; instead, the three batters faulted because Sale didn’t miss often – and when he did it was always out of the zone – and has insane stuff.

Granted, that is not the most shocking conclusion for a pitcher that, again, has the highest strikeout to walk rate of any starter ever, but the fearlessness with which Sale and Vazquez approached hitters was evident. Sale had no trouble locating his fastball, but Vazquez did not hesitate to set up over the middle part of the plate.

Therein lies one of the keys to Sale’s success. Part of the reason Sale’s walk rate is so low is that he has good enough stuff that he doesn’t even need to attempt to paint corners. This ability to pitch wherever he wants also keeps his pitch count low, allowing him to go deeper into games with a fresher arm than most.

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But, of course, there are many keys to such an amazing track record of success. Not all can be uncovered in thirteen pitches, and while this result may be telling, there’s a lot more we can learn from watching the Red Sox ace. So stick around this season. Every fifth day is sure to be a fun one.