Chris Sale's issues at Fenway Park continue in inconsistent outing vs. White Sox

Amin Touri
June 26, 2019 - 6:17 pm
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Taking the ball for his 17th outing of the season, Chris Sale’s Wednesday start mirrored the up-and-down nature of his season, as he was either untouchable or on the edge of a shelling from inning-to-inning against the White Sox.

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Sale left the game after six innings, allowing five runs on six hits, while walking one and hitting two more, but striking out 10 in the process, walking away with his seventh no-decision of the season as the Red Sox fell 8-7 after Matt Barnes’ blown save.

"Just rough again,” Sale said of his outing. “I've got to find a way to get out of the gate better, the last couple times out, early in the game I've put us in a hole, and I've got to find a way to get out of that."

The first inning was a worrying one for the lanky lefty, who gave up a single, a walk and a double to the first three batters he faced to quickly find himself in a hole. Two more singles, with a strikeout in between, put the Red Sox down 3-0 in a hurry and Alex Cora had to make his first mound visit with one out in the first.

"I've just got to find a way to get on top of that, find a way to get in a groove and get comfortable out there and just put it all together,” said Sale. “It's one of those things that's just kind of gotten in the way and gotten out of hand too, I can't put our guys in a hole like that early on.”

Boston’s ace settled down and retired the next two batters before cruising through the second, a 1-2-3 inning that required only seven pitches, after 34 pitches were needed to get through the first.

Trouble suddenly arose again in the third, as Sale threw a 1-2 back-foot slider to James McCann that didn’t quite bite, and McCann smoked a 106 mph laser into the Monster seats to put Chicago up 4-2.

Sale got his slider working to fan Eloy Jimenez a batter later but then hit Jon Jay with a fastball inside. The last run Sale allowed wasn’t completely his fault, as Jay managed to scamper home from second base on an infield grounder while first baseman Michael Chavis was appealing to the first base umpire not noticing that Jay was coming in to score.

From there, Sale hung up only zeros, retiring the last nine batters he faced. He dialed his fastball up to 97 mph twice in the fourth to set Leury Garcia and Jose Abreu both down on strikes, then he fanned McCann and induced a pair of grounders to ease through the fifth.

Sale only got better in the sixth, as Jose Rondon stared at a 96 mph fastball for strike three, Ryan Cordell went fishing for a slider in the dirt and Charlie Tilson found himself way behind another fastball at 97. Later on, he started pumping a steady diet of fastballs, and it worked.

"I think we made some adjustments throughout the game,” said Alex Cora. “Sometimes it's not having his stuff, sometimes it's gameplanning, and it looked like they were hitting his soft stuff early in the game. There were a few innings there, the fourth, fifth and sixth, there were a lot of fastballs and a lot of bad swings. Sometimes, it's not about the stuff he has, you've got to give credit to them, but we made an adjustment late, maybe late, but it seems like when he starts throwing his fastball a lot, they got off their plan."

“I got back to doing what makes me successful, and just letting it eat,” Sale said. “Once I got a little pissed off and started just getting after it, it changed a little bit, the dynamic of the game. Little bit of that, and just trusting my stuff, and trying to fill up the strike zone."

At times, especially in the later innings, Sale had some of his best stuff, with his fastball velocity bouncing back from worryingly low numbers in the early part of the season and his trademark slider working wonders, but the results were underwhelming again, as he picked up his eighth loss of the season.

The seven-time All-Star is still winless at home in seven Fenway starts this season, and with a 3-7 record and a 3.82 record for the season, he hasn’t been his best self, especially at home.

“Nothing (is different),” Sale said. “For some reason I suck here. I don't know what it is, for me, I think I only have one good game here. The last couple years I feel like I've done pretty well here, you always have good crowds and pitching at Fenway's always fun but for whatever reason I just haven't been able to put it together here."

But Sale’s season has been plagued more by inconsistency than it has disappointment — for every six-inning, five-run outing like Wednesday, there’s a seven-inning, two-run, 17-strikeout performance like he had at home on May 14 that netted him just a no-decision.

Similarly, on Wednesday, for every inning like the first that he’d like to forget, there was an inning like the sixth where he was mowing down batters with ease.

Sale’s consistency has been his biggest problem this season, and Wednesday’s loss was more of the same. However, with 10 strikeouts and a lot of the damage coming in bunches, it might not be time to write off his contract extension as a mistake quite yet.

Related: Matt Barnes' blown save wastes Red Sox' offensive outburst in loss to White Sox