Chris Sale

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today Sports

Red Sox wouldn't have pitched Chris Sale in close game, but ninth inning worked out perfectly

John Tomase
October 29, 2018 - 4:16 am

LOS ANGELES – The Red Sox wanted to do right by Chris Sale, but they had some parameters. Out of fairness to Sale and the team, they decided they wouldn’t pitch the injured left-hander in Game 5 of the World Series with less than a two-run lead.

When J.D. Martinez blasted a solo homer to give the Red Sox a 4-1 lead -- before World Series MVP Steve Pearce blasted his second home run of the night to push Boston’s advantage to 5-1 -- pitching coach Dana LeVangie stated his case.

“There was a lot of talk in the dugout about (Nathan) Eovaldi or (Craig) Kimbrel or Chris Sale,” LeVangie said. “As soon as we scored the fourth run to go up, I felt like, ‘I want Chris Sale in the game.’ So I talked to Alex (Cora) about it, and he was all in.”

And then so was Sale. The big left-hander jogged in from a bullpen full of pitchers anxious to end Boston’s championship season, and he finished off the Dodgers in style, striking out the side in the ninth and Manny Machado swinging to end it.

For Sale, getting the call after a difficult second half marred by shoulder issues fulfilled a dream.

“It’s an instant shot,” he said. “Every hair on your body is standing up and you don’t feel a thing. I appreciate the fact they handed me the ball in that last inning and like I said, AC has been able to navigate throughout this entire season doing all the right things and making all the right moves. And that’s why we are where we are.”

It’s no secret that Sale pitched hurt in the postseason. He made three starts and only reached the fifth inning in one of them. He was then scheduled to start Game 5 before Cora decided in the Game 4 postgame handshake line to tab David Price instead.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX reported that Sale’s shoulder will be a major concern this offseason – he only pitched more than five innings once in eight starts (including playoffs) after July 27 --  but LeVangie didn’t sound so dire.

“More than anything, it’s probably just a little bit of wear and tear, no major issues,” he said. “It’s something pitchers might get here and there. Everything looks great for next year and years after. Zero problems with his arm or elbow. Just a small little issue that he had to pitch through a little bit, and he nutted up.”

That said, the Red Sox weren’t going to put Sale in an unfair situation. The ninth inning ended up playing out perfectly.

“There was a run-differential we wanted to respect,” LeVangie said. “We weren’t going to send him out there with a two-run lead. We wanted to make sure there was some leverage for us."

Home runs by Pearce, Mookie Betts, and Martinez provided that leverage, and Sale fittingly found himself mobbed on the mound when it was over.

“You never don’t want the ball,” Sale said when asked about surrendering his Game 5 start. “But DP held the hot hand and he’s carried us through this postseason as one of our starters, plus I got a chance to go old school. My first couple years I was in the bullpen and I got to throw the last pitch of a World Series, so I can’t complain.”