Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

Astros acknowledge Chris Sale is easier to hit when velocity is down

Ryan Hannable
October 14, 2018 - 1:26 am

Although Chris Sale and the Red Sox are saying nothing is physically wrong with the left-hander, the Astros hitters could sense something was up.

Sale wasn't anything like he's known to be and nothing like he was against the Yankees in the ALDS. In Game 1 of the ALCS, the lefty threw 86 pitches, 36 of which were balls, and after his 58th pitch he had thrown fewer than 50 percent strikes. As for his velocity, he topped out at 96 mph, but his average fastball sat at 92 mph.

The Astros hitters took notice.

"A little bit," said Josh Reddick. "You look at his velo, you could tell he was down a little bit, but he still found ways to get outs and grind through there. I don't know if he's down on his pitching ability, but for me, from the left side, it's a lot easier when he's only throwing 92-93 instead of 97. He's not a comfortable at-bat, he's finding ways to get outs, but anytime he's not at 100 percent you feel like you've got an advantage over him."

Sale finished the night going just four innings, allowing two runs on one hit, while walking four, hitting another, and striking out five.

“I know he is coming off injury, but it doesn’t matter if that guy is coming off injury or if he’s pitching at the top of his game, he’s tough," Alex Bregman said, "He’s a competitor. It’s not a comfortable at-bat, ever. He is one of the best pitchers in the game, and he’s not easy. I don’t care what anybody says about his [velocity] being down, or whatever. He is one of the best pitchers in the game and I know everyone in here has a ton of respect for him.”

For Sale to get another chance in the series, the Red Sox will likely need to win a game and with the way the Astros look, that may be easier said than done.

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