Chris Sale's struggles with Yankees, Fenway continue

Amin Touri
July 28, 2019 - 11:26 pm

After two strong starts suggested he might be righting the ship, Chris Sale found himself on Sunday back where’s he’s been: struggling at Fenway, and struggling against the Yankees.

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Consecutive dominant performances against the Blue Jays and Rays didn’t translate into Sunday, as Sale gave up six earned runs in five innings on five hits — including two homers — while walking three as his record dropped to 5-10 in a 9-6 Red Sox loss, foregoing an opportunity for a four-game sweep.

Sale has an ERA of 7.88 against New York this season — he gave up four runs in five innings in April, and four more in six innings in the Bronx in May — and an ERA of 4.79 at home this season, as he can’t seem to put it together in Boston.

"We had an unbelievable series up until today, and even today we gave them everything they can handle," Sale said. "As I sit here in front of you today, it's kind of the same as a few other starts, without me we have a good chance to win this game. That's the toughest part, as hard as we've been playing, as well as we've been playing as a whole, top to bottom— our lineup, our starting pitching, our bullpen, everyone's been doing really well —and to come out here and just be flat out terrible, it's tough."

Through two innings Sale was cruising, retiring the first seven batters, striking out three of them, before walking Cameron Maybin with one out in the third. He made his first real mistake of the game on the next pitch, a changeup middle-up, and Austin Romine hammered it into the monster seats.

The fourth was similar — Sale caught Edwin Encarnacion looking on a fastball on the inside corner, before walking Luke Voit and hanging a slider middle-up for Didi Gregorius to plant in the right field boxes.

Through four innings he’d only made two real mistakes, giving up four earned runs on just those two hits, but a rocky sixth that started with a four-pitch walk to Gregorius, a fielder’s choice and an RBI double was enough to end his evening, as he exited after five.

"It just seemed like my stuff flattened out when I (pitched) out of the stretch, that's when they did all their damage," said Sale. "It just seemed like when I was in the windup I'd find a pretty good rhythm, once I got in the stretch it was a little different ballgame. A couple bad walks, some homers that kind of put them over the edge, just something to look there and try to figure out what I'm doing differently then as opposed to being out of the windup."

Gio Urshela, who doubled home Gregorius, came home on a Maybin single, the sixth and final earned run charged to Sale.

"A change up to Romine, the breaking ball to Didi and then the one to Urshela," Cora identified as the problem pitches. "The walks too kind of put him in a bad spot, he walked Maybin and Voit on a three-two count. Command was okay, it wasn't great, and I think the stuff was, you know, slider was on and off. I think that the walks put him in a bad spot then there was a fielder's choice, we don't turn the double play and Torres gets to first, and then Urshela gets the breaking ball down the middle of the plate and put a good swing on it. He'll be ready for the next one over there."

Along with the pair of meatballs he served up to Romine and Gregorius, Sale struggled with his command, throwing only 56 of his 100 pitches for strikes and issuing three walks. He had particular issues locating his fastball and slider, his two main pitches.

Dropping Sale’s record to 5-10 and bumping his ERA up to 4.26 on the year, the outing snapped a streak of seven consecutive starts of at least 5.2 innings from the Red Sox rotation, a group that had buckled down over the last week or so, having posted a collective 3.38 ERA over the last six games, well down from the season mark of 4.70. Boston still managed to take three of four from New York, and now sits nine games back in the division and one game back for the second Wild Card spot.

"It's tough," Sale said. "Like I said, I'm going to be completely honest with you guys, I've got nothing to shy away from, I'm at a point where it's been a tough year. Up to this point it really has been a grind. I know what I've done in the past, I know who i've been, and I still know what I can do. Now's not the time to start dragging or hanging your head because it's only going to get worse, we have the most important baseball coming up right now, so I don't have time to sit around and pout or hang my head.

"That's the deciding factor, I've got a job to do, and I'm going to be the same guy I've always been."