Reimer: Sale is hurt, Bogaerts got hit again. Bad omens show how quickly magical Red Sox season can go south

Alex Reimer
August 01, 2018 - 11:05 am

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

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The Red Sox have been flawless so far this season. They’re 41 games above .500 and hold a five-game lead over the vaunted Yankees on Aug. 1. 

But Tuesday’s events are a grim reminder of how quickly it can all end. At around 5:00 p.m., the Red Sox announced Chris Sale was being placed on the 10-day disabled list with left shoulder inflammation. They quickly clarified it was “mild” shoulder inflammation, and Dave Dombrowski attributed the ailment to a change in slider grip. We’ll see. As WEEI’s John Tomase astutely notes, Sale’s performance always falters in August. His lifetime ERAs fall between  2.40 and 2.82 in every month between March and July. It rises to 3.22 in August, and balloons –– relatively speaking –– to 3.78 in September/October.

Through 17 starts this season, Sale has been Pedro-esque. He’s allowed two runs or fewer and struck out nine or more batters in each of his last nine outings, five of which were shutouts. The left-hander leads the league in ERA (2.07) and strikeouts (207). Sale’s numbers are nearly identical to last year, where he posted a 2.37 ERA and fanned 211 batters in his first 17 outings. 

In the 15 starts after that, Sale went 4-4 with a 4.09 ERA. He got bombed in the ALDS, surrendering four home runs and nine runs in two appearances against the Astros. 

Five-and-a-half hours after the surprise Sale announcement, Phillies closer Seranthony Dominguez plunked Xander Bogaerts above the right wrist with 99 mph cheese. While X-Rays were negative, Bogaerts was diagnosed with a right-hand contusion. We saw this exact same movie last summer. In April-May-June, Bogaerts hit .314 with an .826 OPS. Then Rays right-hander Jake Faria hit him right above the wrist on July 6. From that point forward, Bogaerts hit .232/.321/.340. 

In other words, one of the game’s best young shortstops turned into Eduardo Nunez with less power.

The Red Sox had three more opportunities to win Tuesday once Bogaerts took first base. But they were retired in order, leaving J.D. Martinez stranded in scoring position while the 3-1 loss became final. Boston went 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position. 

It’s been a moribund stretch for the almighty Red Sox, who have gone scoreless in 25 of their last 30 trips to the plate. Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta only allowed two runs between them in the two-game mini-series against Philadelphia.

As we know, October is all about small sample-sizes, and even the best hitters are prone to slumps. Mookie Betts batted .200 in the 2016 ALDS against Cleveland; Bogaerts is a career .214 postseason hitter; Martinez is hitting .259 in the playoffs, though he’s belted three home runs in 28 plate appearances. 

Assuming the Yankees take care of business against the wretched Orioles, who are basically playing Adam Jones and 24 minor leaguers, the Bombers will enter Fenway Park with just a 4.5-game deficit in the division for a monstrous four-game set. CC Sabathia, who shut down the Red Sox when the two sides squared off June 29, will take the mound Thursday. He was supposed to face Chris Sale, but instead, he’ll square off against Brian Johnson.

Then all eyes will turn to David Price on Sunday night. Last time Price pitched against the Yankees on Sunday night, he was charged with eight runs in 3.1 innings and surrendered five bombs. The highest-paid pitcher in baseball history carries an 8.43 ERA in nine starts against the Yankees in a Red Sox uniform. 

If Sale is out for any extended period of time, the onus falls on Price to carry the starting rotation through the stretch run. Good luck with that.

If the Red Sox fail to make a World Series run, it won’t be because Dombrowski failed to land Brad Ziegler at the trade deadline. It will be because the core members of this team –– Sale, Price, Betts, Martinez, Bogaerts, Mitch Moreland –– failed them when it mattered most. We’ve seen it happen in each of the last two seasons.

Tuesday night seemed like a redux. 

More Red Sox content:

Tomase: Chris Sale insists he'll be fine, but here's why we should be skeptical

Xander Bogaerts drilled by 99 mph fastball, sounds worried about a repeat of 2017

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