Red Sox ace Chris Sale returns to the mound vs Toronto Blue Jays
By Sean Penney
Chris Sale will return to the Boston Red Sox rotation following a nearly month-long absence to face the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday.
It’s a Sale Day! If it seems as if it’s been a while since we’ve been able to say that it’s because it has. Nearly a month, in fact, since Chris Sale last made a start for the Boston Red Sox. Now, the ace is finally back.
Sale has been sidelined for the better part of the second half. He initially landed on the disabled list in late July with mild shoulder inflammation. After resting for a couple weeks, Sale returned to dominate the Baltimore Orioles on August 12, tossing five scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts. All seemed well based on these results yet a few days later he was back on the DL when his shoulder started barking again.
The Red Sox have been cautious with their ace, giving him plenty of time for his shoulder to heal. They also plan to ease him back into the rotation. Sale will “open” Tuesday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays. He’s expected to be limited to only two innings and 40 pitches before Nathan Eovaldi takes over.
There’s enough time in the regular season to give Sale four more starts. That should be sufficient time to build up his pitch count so that he’s ready for a full workload when the ALDS begins.
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It will be interesting to see what happens if the Red Sox have clinched the division and home-field advantage by the time the New York Yankees come to town for the final series of the regular season. The rotation currently lines up for Sale to start the Friday night game – a Nationally televised game on ESPN. Does Boston rest their ace if the game is meaningless at that point or do they need him to pitch in order to keep building up his stamina?
Sale remains in the thick of the Cy Young race. He leads the league with a 1.97 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 13.5 K/9, .175 batting average against, and 6.6 WAR. That Sale has been the league’s most valuable pitcher despite missing about six weeks is a testament to his brilliance. His 219 strikeouts are third most in the American League even though he’s made only 23 starts.
The magic number for the Red Sox to clinch a playoff spot is down to one. What better way to lock in a postseason berth than with their ace on the mound?
We have seen Sale wear down late in seasons before, particularly last year when he went to the postseason for the first time in his career. Perhaps the time off will be a blessing in disguise. If Sale has no further setbacks with his shoulder and returns to form by October it will greatly increase Boston’s chances at a World Series title.