USA Today Sports

So far, so good when it comes to Chris Sale

Rob Bradford
September 17, 2018 - 7:03 am

This whole thing comes with a caveat. It can go bad at any point. It did before, and it can again.

But when it comes to Chris Sale's march toward living life as a postseason ace and putting his shoulder inflammation in the rearview mirror, the plan seems to be going swimmingly. This is the impression we had walking out of the Red Sox' clubhouse after talking to the lefty following his three innings in the 4-3 win over the Mets Sunday. (For a complete recap of the Red Sox' victory, click here.)

"I think at this point the first one obviously didn’t go as planned," said Sale, referencing his one inning his last time out. "This one was a little more smooth. We’re doing three innings with an inning in the bullpen. We ramp up the first time, then the next time, and by the third one, the first postseason start, we’ll be at 100 pitches, which is where you want to be.

"I feel 100 percent. I wouldn’t be going out there if I wasn’t. This is just part of the process, building up. It’s not that I’m still injured or still hurting, it’s just you can’t sit out three weeks and go pitch nine innings."

There is still work to be done. But Sale has time to do it.

This time out he threw 42 pitches, 20 of which were four-seam fastballs. It was a heater that averaged 94.9 mph and maxed out at 96.8 mph, not exactly the high 90's that this guy was producing for most of his season. But, according to Sale, that was at least somewhat by design.

"Last time out, I was trying to throw every pitch as hard as I could, trying to make everything as nasty as possible and that’s not how you start games," he said. "This time I was more in sync, there was more rhythm to it and I was more under control today."

All things considered, there should be optimism when it comes to Sale.

This is a pitcher who is hitting late September with good stuff, good command and, most perhaps most importantly, a fraction of the workload he has been used to. Sale, who has given up one run since June 19, is sitting with 150 innings. What that does is leave him not only with gas in the tank heading into Game 1 of the postseason but enough of a buffer for another 30 innings as is often needed for any World Series run.

"I’m excited for it. It’s hard not to be," he said of the impending postseason. "Like I’ve said a million times, this team has allowed me to do this. This would not be an easy process if we were a game or two up or a game or two back. I appreciate the fact that these guys go and put it on the line every day and win games. You saw it today. Tied up and kind of in crunch time and get a leadoff double and move the runner over, drive the runner in and that’s … We win games in many different ways. I think that’s the sign of a good team and I’m appreciative of the guys in this clubhouse."

- With the win and a Yankees loss vs. Toronto, their magic number to win the AL East is two. The Red Sox have a season-high 11.5-game lead.

- With 12 games left to play, are two wins shy of a franchise record. Their 103 wins are their most since 1946 (104).

-  Reached a season-high 56 games over .500. The only other year in which the Red Sox reached 56-or-more games over .500 was 1912 (+58).

- Their 103 wins are the most by an AL team since the Yankees in 2009 (103). The only other teams in that time with 103-plus wins have been the Cubs in 2016 (103) and Dodgers in 2017 (104). The last AL team with more wins was SEA in 2001 (116).