Well that sucked. I don’t need to write more than that, right? You don’t really want to relive that game, do you?
It was the same old story of every other Chris Sale start. Do you want to start with the good or the bad? The bad? Fine.
The Red Sox offense was completely and utterly punchless. Again. Now, it’d be easy to say that Masahiro Tanaka wasn’t even that good tonight since he only had three strikeouts. That would be selling the Yankees ace short. Tanaka had incredible command all night long, hitting his spots and not leaving any pitches in hittable zones. He seemingly hit the catcher’s glove on every pitch, or at least enough of them for me to notice how often it was happening. You don’t throw a three-hit shutout with 97 pitches without being great. Tanaka had struggled this year prior to this game, but we knew the talent was still there. It’s unfortunate that it had to come back out against the Red Sox offense.
With that being said, said offense does not get let off the hook. Yes, they were facing a good pitcher who was on something close to his A-game. Just like they were last night against Luis Severino. This is a lineup made up of stars, though, and they should be able to overcome this by putting at least one run on the board to support their star pitcher. They didn’t put up anything resembling a challenge against Tanaka all night. They were swinging early in counts and they were spraying weak contact all over the field. It is true that the Yankees had excellent advanced scouting as they were well positioned all night long, but the Red Sox could beat those shifts by hitting the ball in the air.
All told, there wasn’t a single promising rally for the Red Sox all night. It was quick and painless for Tanaka all night long. He didn’t walk a single batter, which is both a testament to his command and also to Boston’s inability to work a count. He allowed just three singles and just one runner to advance beyond first base. It was complete and utter domination.
Meanwhile, Chris Sale had two innings that went poorly, and one could argue they weren’t entirely his fault. The first run in this game came in the fourth inning, on a rally that was started by a measly single from Aaron Hicks to lead off the inning. It was the first time in 29 innings that Sale allowed a leadoff batter to get a hit.
In the next at bat, Chase Headley hit a rocket back towards the mound that Sale stabbed at and stopped. He couldn’t turn the double play, though, and just took the out at first. If he had let that go by, Dustin Pedroia probably turns a double play. Instead, Hicks is in scoring position with one out. You can’t blame Sale for reaching his glove out, but it was a rough turn of events that ended up hurting them.
During the next at bat, a swinging strike got past Sandy Leon, allowing Hicks to get to third with one out. It looked like a bad passed ball, but a replay showed that it was simply a matter of the catcher getting crossed up. It might have been Leon’s fault. It might have been Sale’s fault. We don’t know from here who got the signals crossed up, but we know that it was a rough turn of events that ended up hurting them.
Matt Holliday would follow that up with a deep line drive to left field on which Hicks scored easily. Just like that, the Yankees had an insurmountable 1-0 lead.
The other rough inning was the ninth. Sale was brought back out for the final frame with 103 pitches. There is an argument to be made that he should not have been brought back out. I would argue that John Farrell did the right thing, as Sale was coming off a 1-2-3 inning and was generally still looking strong. Farrell also had Heath Hembree warming and ready to come in at the first sign of trouble. As it turns out, that would come quickly as Sale allowed three straight singles to start the inning. That resulted in one run, and Hembree would come in to allow one more inherited run to score.
Beyond that, though, Sale was as electric has he’s been all year long. He had all his pitches working, particularly early in the game. Through his first three innings of work the lefty had seven strikeouts on just 38 pitches. He’d slow down from that pace a little, but still ended up with another 10 strikeout game, his fourth consecutive start with double-digit strikeouts. He joins Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez and Jon Lester as the only other Red Sox pitchers to achieve that feat. Pretty good company.
For as great as Sale was, though, the offense is the story once again. And once again, it is not a good story. This is a major funk they are in. I’m not worried about their talent level, but I am worried about what watching this group in this current state on a daily basis will do to my sanity. With the Cubs coming to town this weekend, we may find out how bad it can really get.