It was not the happiest of Chris Sale days in Boston on Saturday, as the Red Sox ace was a little bit off compared to where we’re used to seeing him. The Yankees, who Sale has dominated so many times this year, were able to manage some hard contact off the lefty in this game and that was enough to propel them to a victory.
While Sale’s performance was noteworthy because of the hard contact, he was still able to go deep into the game and put the Red Sox in a position where they still could have won. Unfortunately, Boston has no answer to CC Sabathia, in this the year 2017. The veteran lefty was dominated the Red Sox this season, coming into this day with 14 scoreless innings against his rival. They did manage to score two off of him in this game, but he cruised through most of this outing.
Seriously, what Sabathia has been able to do against the Red Sox this year is uncanny. This was a wildly frustrating game, and some of that was due to some solid contact that didn’t results in a hit, but a lot of it was simply because they couldn’t get anything going against the former Cy Young winner. It sort of felt like some of the earlier struggles in the year, although this one was much more forgivable considering how well they’ve been hitting of late. Still, you’d have liked to see them do more against the aging southpaw, but it wasn’t in the cards tonight.
The Red Sox didn’t even manage a baserunner against Sabathia until there were two outs in the third when Jackie Bradley got a single. Before that, there was not much to be happy about, though Mookie Betts was robbed of a single on a great reaction play by Sabathia. Bradley was, of course, stranded at first after that single and Boston followed that inning up with a 1-2-3 fourth. To say Sabathia cruised to that point would be an understatement.
Meanwhile, Sale was being hit as hard and as consistently as we’ve seen in 2017. Granted, the bar is set incredibly high for the Cy Young favorite, but it was still a bit jarring to see the Yankees hit him so well.
The first inning against Sale wasn’t too bad as New York managed but one walk, but things took a turn after that. In the second, after a quick first out, he allowed a ground rule double into the right-field corner from Didi Gregorius. Amazingly, it was the first double from a left-handed hitter against Sale all year. The southpaw hit the next batter he faced to put two runners on for Tyler Austin. Sale tossed him a fastball up in the zone, and Austin was sitting on it. He smoked it over everything in left field to give the Yankees an early 3-0 lead.
Sale settled down some after that. He allowed an infield single before getting out of that second and allowed just one baserunner in each of the next two innings, with one coming on an error. There were some loud outs in that frame, though, with the most notable being a deep flyout from Austin on which Jackie Bradley made yet another amazing catch. This time, he leaped way up in the air against the wall to make the grab.
So, that brings us up to the fifth with Sabathia and Sale seemingly switching roles for the night, at least based on expectations. The Red Sox ace allowed a one-out double to Hicks in the top half, and it seemed like trouble with Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez coming up. He got through it, because of course he did.
In the bottom half, the Red Sox finally got a rally going against Sabathia. Xander Bogaerts started things with a one-out walk, and he moved over to third on a single from Rafael Devers. With runners on the corners, Sandy Leon hit a weak ground ball that resulted in an out but also scored a run and pushed Devers to second base. That would turn out to be important as Bradley came through with a two-out single that scored Devers, partially thanks to an impressive slide from the rookie at home plate. The throw home moved Bradley to second, but Eduardo Nuñez stranded him there with the Red Sox trailing by one. It looked like they would be able to get another rally going in the sixth when Betts led things off with a double, but he’d be stranded there. That ended the night for Sabathia, who put forth yet another strong effort against Boston.
Sale would allow another run in the sixth on a solo home run to Todd Frazier. It was down in the zone but a little flatter than you’d like. After increasing the deficit to two, Sale came back out of the seventh and racked up three strikeouts in the frame, because of course he did. This certainly wasn’t the best start we’ve seen from Sale this year, but even in this bad outing he managed to get through seven innings with nine strikeouts. That’s a bad start, somehow. He’s incredible.
So, it was a bullpen game from here, and the Red Sox struck early against New York’s bullpen. Adam Warren was the first man up, and while he did get two strikeouts they were sandwiched by another home run from Devers. This one was to the deepest part of the field behind the triangle. He is just unreal.
Matt Barnes came in first for the Red Sox, and he did allow one hit in the eighth inning but it was a clean performance otherwise and he preserved the one-run deficit. That gave the Red Sox a chance to tie it up in the eighth, and they had a pretty good chance to do so. After a couple of quick outs to start the inning, Andrew Benintendi struck out on a breaking ball in the dirt, but the ball got away from Sanchez and allowed the Red Sox rookie outfielder to reach. Hanley Ramirez followed that up with a double to put runners on second and third, and Joe Girardi intentionally walked Mitch Moreland to get to Bogaerts. It was a big spot for Boston’s shortstop going up against the filthy David Robertson. Unfortunately, the Yankees reliever won this battle with some nasty sliders that Bogaerts couldn’t lay off. He’d strand the bases loaded and the Red Sox remained down by one.
The top half of the ninth got a little sketchy when Heath Hembree led things off by allowing a double, and after a sacrifice fly the Yankees had a runner on third with just one out. Robby Scott came in to face Brett Gardner and induced a groundball to third base on which Devers gunned down Jacoby Ellsbury at the plate. So, with two outs, Joe Kelly came on and started off by walking Aaron Hicks. Kelly would get out of the jam by striking out Aaron Judge, the rookie outfielder’s third strikeout of the day.
The Red Sox did get a runner on with one out in the ninth against Dellin Betances, and Brock Holt came in to pinch run. However, with Bradley having worked a 2-0 count, the Red Sox sent Holt and he was gunned down rather easily at second base for the second out. It was a questionable decision to put it kindly. Bradley would fly out a couple pitches later and the game was over.
So, the Red Sox couldn’t pull off the win on Sale Day and will now have to take home the victory on Sunday to ensure a series sweep and a five-game cushion in the division. They’ve played well enough of late that this loss is far from devastating, but it was a game most of us had chalked up as a victory for most of this game. The offense will look to get back going against Sonny Gray as they send Rick Porcello to the bump on Sunday afternoon.