Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale finally wins at Fenway Park
By Sean Penney
Boston Red Sox left-handed pitcher Chris Sale won a regular season game at Fenway Park for the first time in over a year.
You’re supposed to win with your ace on the mound and when you play at home. The Boston Red Sox have had trouble putting those expectations together this season but they finally broke through with Chris Sale earning the win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday.
The win was Sale’s first of the season at home and the first regular season win he’s been credited with at Fenway Park in over a year. His last was July 11, 2018 against the Texas Rangers.
Sale picked up a win at home against the New York Yankees in last year’s ALDS but his 13 consecutive regular season starts at home without a win set a franchise record.
For a bit of perspective on this stretch of futility, we should note that Sale missed a significant chunk of the second half last season with shoulder inflammation. Following that win over the Rangers last July, Sale made only one more home start before hitting the injured list – a six shutout inning effort in an eventual Red Sox win that Sale wasn’t given credit for. He was used as an opener on a strict pitch count that prevented him from reaching the five innings necessary to qualify for a win when he returned in September.
The zero home wins narrative is a bit overblown due to the injury and slow build up when he returned last year but 2019 has still been a frustrating season for Sale. It hasn’t all been his fault. He’s been cheated out of a few wins by a shaky bullpen and a baffling level of run support despite pitching for the team with the highest scoring offense in baseball.
Even when he wasn’t winning, it didn’t necessarily mean Sale was losing. He’s been tagged with only three losses at home this season. The Red Sox would end up winning two games he started after he left the game and there are several no-decisions scattered throughout his home starts. The stretch without a win certainly wasn’t great yet it wasn’t quite as dismal as it seemed.
Sale won’t use those factors as an excuse though because he knows he hasn’t been the same dominant pitcher this year, at least not consistently. He’s had a few awful starts this year, including five earned runs in each of his previous three, two of which were at home. Forget the win-loss record, a 4.26 ERA at home isn’t what we expect from Sale.
More from Red Sox News
- Red Sox Nation deserves far more from Fenway Sports Group
- Bizarre trade deadline comes back to haunt Red Sox after Nathan Eovaldi departure
- Red Sox’ Moneyball-style offseason continues with Corey Kluber contract
- Rich Hill’s Red Sox departure puts him within striking distance of unique MLB record
- Red Sox offseason takes another nasty hit with Nathan Eovaldi departure
Thursday’s win against Toronto is an encouraging sign that Sale is getting back on track.
Sale blanked the Jays over six innings, allowing only two hits and a pair of walks while striking out 12.
The bite on his slider was back and he showed improved control of his changeup. Sale’s fastball command was a bit spotty early on while his velocity hovered in the low 90’s but he got stronger as the game went on, dialing it up to 96 mph for a pair of strikeouts in the fifth inning.
Regaining command of his changeup could be the key to salvaging his season. Sale has thrown his changeup only 14.2% of the time this season, his lowest rate since 2012. He was able to find his feel for the pitch against the Jays, collecting seven swinging strikes with his changeup.
It’s too soon to say that his issues are behind him but this latest effort certainly seems closer to vintage Sale. Getting the monkey off his back about winning at home should help him focus and may even build some momentum to carry him down the stretch.