If Red Sox can't win games that Chris Sale dominates, they are going absolutely nowhere

Alex Reimer
June 11, 2019 - 10:14 am
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Good baseball teams are expected to win their ace’s starts, especially when he fans 10 batters and utterly dominates the competition. But the Red Sox failed to support Chris Sale Monday, falling to the Rangers in extra innings. Boston is now 4-10 in Sale’s outings this season, and the left-hander hasn’t won at Fenway Park since July 11, 2018. While there are lots of reasons for the floundering Red Sox’ middling record nearly halfway through the season, the central culprit is their inability to win with their best pitcher on the mound.

And if this mystifying trend doesn’t change, the Red Sox are going nowhere, whether they acquire another quality reliever or not.

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The Red Sox’ 4-3 loss to the Rangers Monday was a microcosm of their maddening season. The offense went dead after Andrew Benintendi’s two-run blast in the first inning, with Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts both squandering prime opportunities to knock in runners from scoring position at various points in the game. In the fifth inning, Betts struck out with Jackie Bradley Jr. on third base; in extra frames, Bogaerts flew out to center with the bases loaded, after taking a called strike right down the heart of the plate.

Despite the relative offensive no-show, the Red Sox carried a 2-1 lead into the ninth inning, which is where Matt Barnes blew the team’s 10th save of the season. The club’s most reliable reliever curiously decided to abandon his blistering fastball, and surrendered three straight hits to cough up the lead. Boston relievers are sporting a dreadful 6.12 ERA in the ninth inning this season, good for third-worst in baseball.

It was another missed opportunity to capitalize on Sale’s brilliance. Including Monday, the Red Sox have lost three games in which Sale has struck out at least 10 hitters and allowed two earned runs or fewer. 

That is a recipe for mediocrity. The Red Sox paid Sale $145 million so he could be their stopper, and while he’s just been fair against the top of the American League –– 4.67 ERA in his last three starts against the Astros and Yankees ––  Boston must beat up the moribund Rangers when Sale keeps sending them back to the dugout. 

But that wasn’t the case Monday, and hasn’t been the case all season long. The Red Sox have scored three runs or fewer in half of Sale’s starts. 

Boston will send rookie Darwinzon Hernandez to the mound Tuesday, joining Ryan Weber and Josh Smith as unknowns who have started three of their last six games. Given Nathan Eovaldi’s prolonged stint on the injured list, the bottom of the rotation may be a mess for a while longer.

It’s even more of a reason for the Red Sox to start supporting Sale. An ace is supposed to lift a team, but he can’t do it without any help.

Related: How 24 hours helped define Boston's relationship with David Ortiz

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