That was ugly. There’s no other way to put it. Chris Sale very much did not do Chris Sale things, and it was fairly clear early on that this was not going to be the Red Sox night. Boston’s pitchers were destroyed all night, particularly by the bottom of Cleveland’s order. Every team has these bad nights like this and in the grand scheme of things it’s not the end of the world, but that didn’t make it any easier to watch as it was all going down.
It is always a bit jarring to see Sale pitch like this, and really this was as bad as we’ve seen him pitch in a Red Sox uniform. It was clear fairly early on that he didn’t have his best stuff working while also not having his best command. There were some at bats in which Sale just couldn’t find the strike zone, and when he finally did it came in a hitter’s count and he threw it right over the heart of the plate. There were other at bats when he was able to get to a pitcher’s count with two strikes, but couldn’t quite get the putaway pitch. Those were the strangest to watch, as his performance this year has made a strikeout in those at bats essentially a foregone conclusion at this point.
For how bad Sale’s outing was, it didn’t really get started in the first. He only allowed a single in this inning, and while Jose Ramirez did get to second on a stolen base he didn’t advance beyond that. The struggles began in earnest in the second. That inning started off poorly with Sale allowing a couple of singles and a walk to load the bases before recording an out. Then, the Indians just kept coming at him. They got a single to score their first run, a fielder’s choice to score the second and another single to score the third. With Sale on the ropes, he finally induced what looked like it could be an inning-ending double play to third base. Instead, Rafael Devers’ throw was a bit off the mark and Eduardo Nuñez couldn’t corral it. It sailed into the outfield to give Cleveland another run, and it was probably more on Nuñez than it was on Devers, though the latter was charged with the error. Sale did induce the double play in the next at bat, but with a 4-0 Cleveland lead the damage was already done.
It didn’t get much better in the next inning as the southpaw walked two of the first three batters he faced. After that, with one out, he allowed a double to Yandy Diaz — who, by the way, destroyed the Red Sox in this game — that scored one. After the second out, Sale would allow one more 2-RBI single before getting out of it. Still, he had allowed a whopping seven runs over three innings and John Farrell didn’t send him back out there.
This was Sale’s second consecutive bad outing against the Indians and they seem to hit him better than any other club in baseball. It’s unclear what’s causing this, but the Red Sox and Sale need to figure it out since Cleveland is their most likely ALDS opponent at this point. That being said, there is really no reason to worry about Sale and he is obviously the guy to start in Game One of that potential ALDS. I probably didn’t need to mention that, but some had asked.
After Sale came in, the Red Sox had to rely on a few different relievers after optioning Hector Velazquez earlier in the day. Heath Hembree came in first and allowed one run in 1 1⁄3 innings. Brandon Workman was next and pitched the same number of innings as Hembree but allowed two runs. If you’re looking for a silver lining here it’s that they both looked better in their first innings than their second. Blaine Boyer, meanwhile, allowed three runs while recording just one out. Finally, Fernando Abad made a rare appearance and tossed a couple of scoreless innings.
Meanwhile, the offense did get some rallies going at some point in this game but with Sale’s poor performance much of it didn’t matter. The first run came in the third inning immediately after Cleveland took a 4-0 lead. This came on a leadoff solo home run from Mitch Moreland, who crushed a fastball right down the heart of the plate.
The Red Sox couldn’t get anything going from there, but they did get another rally in the fourth. At this point, they were trailing by six so they had a lot of work to do against Trevor Bauer to make the comeback. Mookie Betts kicked things off with a double, and after two quick outs Rafael Devers drew a walk and Xander Bogaerts knocked both in with a triple. Moreland came through with another RBI, this time on a triple, but that was all for the Red Sox. Moreland once again came through in the eighth with another home run in the eighth. They did have a couple other scoring chances later in the game, but at that point Cleveland had already gotten to Boston’s bullpen and the game was out of reach.
As if this game wasn’t bad enough, Mookie Betts left in the seventh with an apparent injury. According to the team, it was a bruised knee and the outfielder is day-to-day.
So, that was the game and now it’s time to put it in the rear view. The good news is the Yankees also lost on Thursday so the Red Sox keep their 4.5-game lead. At the end of the day, that’s fine and getting a split in Cleveland is about what most of us expected. We didn’t expect it to go quite like this, but the end result is the same. Now, they head back to Fenway for a very winnable series against Baltimore. Rick Porcello will take the bump for the first game of that three-game set.