The old Chris Sale makes a return in Red Sox win

Rob Bradford
July 18, 2019 - 3:57 pm

This was an important development for the Red Sox, and it only partly had to do with keeping pace in the Wild Card race.

Chris Sale was the story in this 5-0 win over the Blue Jays. No doubt about it. (For a complete recap, click here.)

The Red Sox lefty dominated a team that roughed him up two starts ago, this time spinning six innings of shutout baseball while striking out 12 and allowing just two hits. It was a far cry from what Sale had been delivering in his previous four starts.

Gone was the anxiety that existed throughout the last month, a four-start stretch that included a 7.59 ERA with hitters compiling a .322 batting average against. Red Sox manager Alex Cora surmised when appearing on OMF Wednesday that we would see a different Sale after getting that first post-All Star break start out of the way, and that's exactly what happened.

"I think this year has just kind of been all over the place," Sale said. "I’ve been as bad as I’ve ever been in my career and I’ve also had some of the best games I’ve ever had in my career this year. So it’s one of those things, it’s more confusing than anything. Kind of all over the map. You go out there, and 17-strikeouts, complete-game shutout and then games when I’m not even getting out of the fourth inning. It’s just more confusing. I feel like there are times when I’m racking up strikeouts but I’m also sitting there in a five-run hole. It’s like one thing but not the other, or two things, but not the third one. It’s just about doing it all at the same time and getting the results you need."

While Sale's fastball wasn't popping the mitt to the level of some starts -- with his fastball averaging 92 mph and maxing out at 96 mph (on a fifth-inning pitch to Freddy Galvis) -- it was undeniably a weapon for the southpaw. 

Of his 101 pitches, Sale threw his fastball 45 times, integrating 31 sliders and 25 changeups. The changeup was the difference compared to the last two starts when he used the pitch a combined 13 times.

The win marked Sale's first win at Fenway Park since July 11, 2018, having gone winless at home over 13 starts.

"Through all of this, I think that’s the biggest thing is realizing that good, bad or indifferent, I’m not alone," he said. "I’m not out on an island with no one to lean on and no one to get advice from. This past week was obviously big for me, coming off three of the worst starts of my career and really trying to turn it around and guys picking me up and having my back and trying to point me in the right direction. Not only that,  but the coaching staff and I got some words of wisdom from Luis (Tiant). That never hurts."

Rafael Devers and Mookie Betts remained among the hottest Red Sox hitters, each hitting home runs. For Devers it was his 19th, while Betts has 14.