The Boston Red Sox have been waiting for Chris Sale to find the mojo that’s made him so dominant over his career. Tonight may have been that night.
The Red Sox were looking to their ace left-hander to deliver a performance that could inspire the squad. Chris Sale did just that when he marched into Guaranteed Rate Field last night as if he’d never left. Friday night wasn’t just about giving Boston a chance to win, it was also about getting Sale back to his dominating form.
The night wasn’t all perfect as there were hiccups here and there. A pair of hit batsmen and a couple of hits would find their way into Sale’s boxscore but other than that the southpaw was untouchable. He gave the Red Sox everything he had over 6IP and put them in a strong position to walk away with the win.
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Sale looked like the pitcher that ran through lineups the last few seasons last night. His velocity on the fastball never truly dipped as it bounced between 93-95 MPH. That’s something we haven’t seen much of this season as much of the talk was about Chris losing the heat on his heater. His big weapon on the evening was his trademark slider. He was placing the slider wherever he wanted to all game long and the Chicago hitters couldn’t do a damn thing about it.
This was a big statement game for Sale as he hasn’t quite been himself this season and was now in front of his old home crowd. Coming into the game with an appalling 0-5 record he wanted to send a message that he was worth every penny of the 5-year/$145M extension he signed earlier this spring. And over his last few starts, he’s done exactly that.
In his last three starts, Sale has gone 18 IP/12 H/4 ER/ 6 BB/ 28 K, that is just off the charts good and his record should reflect that better. He’s done everything in his power to get the Red Sox in a place to win in these last batch of starts and sadly the rest of the team hasn’t held up their end of the deal. Tonight was a much different story though as Rafael Devers would smash a 3-run bomb and later on Michael Chavis would add a 2-run shot of his own.
So with his patented electric slider baffling hitters and the Red Sox bats going to work, Sale was finally able to notch a tally in the win column. I won’t say that his first few starts weren’t frightening and downright abysmal, hell even Sale would say he has sucked this year. The last three games he’s pitched though, those have been some classics from the lefty.
If you ask Alex Cora his thoughts on Sale’s performance he’d tell you things are right on schedule as far as the southpaw finding his groove on the mound.
"“I think last year he took off May 6 in Texas. I was talking about that,” Cora reminded reporters here after Friday’s game. “The weather obviously is a lot different. But he pitched well today. 94, 95, good slider. Fastball inside. You’ve got to stick with the process. And we’ve been very patient obviously.”"
Patient is the right word to describe how the Red Sox have handled the floundering ace so far in 2019 and it appears to be paying off. Even when things didn’t go perfectly last night it never seemed like Sale was losing control of the game. At one point he let the first two batters on late n the game and then struck out the side to get out of it. He never lost his cool and continued to execute the gameplan.
"“I’ve been grinding,” Sale said. “I know it hasn’t looked pretty up until this point. That’s sports. That’s baseball. Sometimes you figure it out and you ride that wave. And sometimes you’re out in the middle of the ocean trying to find it. Not only myself but a lot of people in here have helped me get to this point.”"
This was without a shadow of a doubt a statement performance from The Condor and the statement was heard loud and clear. He isn’t close to done and neither is this Red Sox team. The bats are beginning to wake up and the pitching is starting to click which means scary things for the rest of the league.
If the team can all get on the same page like they were for 2018, then they can get out of this early season hole and make some moves. There’s plenty of season left and though it hasn’t been pretty, things are definitely looking up. Alex Cora has this team staying the course through the rough waters of April and now it’s onto smooth sailing in May.
The Red Sox have a comfortable schedule in May that will see them at home almost as much as on the road and with opponents that will give them opportunities to climb in the standing.If they keep getting outings from Chris Sale as they did on Friday night then that gives them a hell of a chance to get right back where they want to, on top.