Red Sox Postseason: Three reasons to blame for ALCS Game 1 loss
By Sean Penney
Game 1 got out of control in large part due to the pitching staff losing control of the strike zone. The Red Sox pitching staff issued 10 walks, tying the major league record for a nine-inning postseason game. They also hit three batters, two of whom scored.
It starts with Chris Sale. The lefty wasn’t in ace-caliber form early in the game, accounting for four of those walks in only four innings. His velocity was down again, hovering between 89-93 mph in the first inning, and he consistently missed with his slider. Perhaps most concerning of all is that he wasn’t getting swings and misses in those first two innings.
Maybe his shoulder is still bothering him or he may have had trouble getting loose in the cold weather. Regardless of the reason, this was not the Chris Sale we know. He settled down to retire the final five batters he faced but it was too little, too late. His early struggles racked up his pitch count, ending Sale’s night after four innings and 86 pitches.
As poorly as Sale pitched, home plate umpire James Hoye did him no favors. Hoye’s strike zone was maddeningly inconsistent all night, with seemingly every borderline call going against the Red Sox. In some cases it wasn’t even a questionable call, it was flat out wrong.
Granted, Christian Vazquez was crossed up on that second pitch and umpires often won’t call a strike when the pitcher misses by that much. But this pitch was right down the middle! Joe Kelly got Tyler White to pop out in that at-bat so no harm done but this goes to show one of the more egregious calls that went against Boston.
The umpires were awful in this game but they weren’t the reason why the Red Sox lost. Still, it made it all the more frustrating to watch. We also can’t help but wonder, if Sale hadn’t been robbed on a few close calls then he may have lasted longer in this game. That potentially changes everything.