Kim Klement/USA Today Sports

Chris Sale's remarkable history of bouncing back

Rob Bradford
August 09, 2017 - 1:24 am

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Addison Reed was there for that initial disaster. He was also there five days later.

Back on April 13, 2013, Chris Sale suffered through the first of what would be seven starts in which he gave up at least seven runs. It was the White Sox's starter's first chance to show how he was going to respond to this kind of adversity. As Reed, a Chicago teammate of Sale at the time, can attest, the next outing was telling.

Seven innings, two earned runs.

"A pitcher like that, it's pretty easy to forget about the bad ones when he has the stuff that he has. He doesn't let things bother him," Reed said after the Red Sox' 2-0 win over the Rays Tuesday night. "He has that short-term memory, which is a huge part of his game. It's a huge part of any pitchers game, but he's one of the best I've ever who can forget about a bad outing."

It became a trend for Sale.

The next time it happened, Aug. 23, 2013, the next start resulted in an eight-inning gem in which Sale allowed just one run. Sometimes it took two bad starts to figure things out, but the solution has always shown up. Back-to-back really bad starts in 2015 was followed by pure dominance, with Sale 14 2/3 innings in which he gave up just two runs. And then there was last season's seven-run stinker. Next start? Eight shutout innings.

Of course all of this is pertinent because of what Sale did against Tampa Bay.

Exactly one week after giving up seven runs over five innings against Cleveland, Sale was virtually unhittable against the Rays. The lefty gave up just two hits and no runs over eight innings, striking out 13. The trend had continued.

"The one that wakes up in the morning. That's the best one," said Reed when asked which version of Sale was the tops. "As long as he's waking up in the morning, there's going to be a pretty damn good Chris Sale coming at you."

And this time around, Sale was going to make sure he was coming at you.

"Let's be honest, I was flat-out embarrassed last time I was on a baseball field," he said. "And that never sits right with many people, especially myself. I wanted to come back and be good for this one. My guys picked me up last time, so it was my turn to pick them up today."

Asked what bothered him the most about that last start, Sale was quick with his response. "Getting my ass kicked," he said.

Motivation was just part of the solution for Sale, with rest and preparation also clearly factoring in. With the unusally long layoff between starts, the southpaw had executed not one, but two bullpens to iron out some kinks. It worked.

"Direction. Extension. There were a couple of things that Dana [LeVangie] and Banni [Brian Banniser] and Carl [Willis] and I, we sat down and talked about some things that needed to be corrected and fixed. I had two bullpen sessions this past week with the couple of extra days. This time of year you want to stay on top of things and make sure you stay clicking," Sale explained.

"I felt confident. Those extra work days in between helped. I was able to play some long-toss and get some more extension. It was nice. You have a little bit added fuel when you don't do so well your last time out. We know where we are at. We know this is going to be a pretty big and important road trip for us. I wanted to come out here and give my team a chance to win and start out the right way."

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