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Red Sox 3, Blue Jays 6: Chris Sale is slumping

And the Blue Jays are all over him in 2019.

Boston Red Sox v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Something is going on with Chris Sale. The Red Sox ace had a couple of rough starts heading into Wednesday’s game in Toronto, with a lack of command in the zone being a primary problem in those games. That was a problem again tonight, as the Blue Jays had no trouble making hard contact and ended up with three homers on the night. It’s a frustrating stretch that needs to be fixed when he comes back from the All-Star break. Meanwhile, the offense got some early runs but were unable to pick up their ace as they got nothing in the second half of the game. Xander Bogaerts in particular had a rough night with his first four-strikeout game of his career. Finding momentum has been impossible this year.

The Red Sox offense was smoking hot heading into Wednesday’s game, particularly early on in games. Scoring in the first inning had been among this team’s most frustrating problems all year, but they’d scored at least four runs in their previous four games before this one. On Wednesday, they were going up against an opener in David Phelps, looking for that same kind of success. Unfortuantely, they didn’t get it. Boston did get a leadoff walk from Mookie Betts that seemed promising, but Rafael Devers grounded into a double play and only three batters came to the plate in the inning. They’d then go down in order in the second, too, this time against Jacob Waguespack.

On the other side, Chris Sale was looking for a strong performance against this talented but raw Blue Jays lineup. Over his career, including the hey-day of Toronto’s prowess at the plate, Sale had dominated the Canadian team. That weirdly has not been the case this year, though. He’d faced them twice previously this year and the Blue Jays have been all over him in both of these starts. It’s been a weird phenomenon, but he hasn’t been fooling them very much in 2019.

Things got off to a rough start in this game, too. Freddy Galvis was holding down the leadoff spot for the Blue Jays in this game, and he started this one off with some solid contact by ripping a double into left field. Fortunately, Sale came back strong after that with three straight strikeouts and it appeared he had settled into a groove. The second wasn’t quite as smooth as he allowed a single and a two-out double to put a pair in scoring position for Brandon Drury. He smoked a line drive, but it was right at Betts and Sale still had a zero on the board through two.

In the third, the offense started to get going a bit for the Red Sox. Michael Chavis started this rally with a one-out double out down the left field line. Brock Holt then knocked a base hit, and suddenly there was a pair in scoring position for the top of the order. It looked like the Red Sox were going to squander this one when Betts hit a ground ball to third base. The ball caught Chavis in no-man’s land between third and home, and he was eventually tagged out in a rundown. However, the rundown did allow Holt to get to third and Betts to get to second, which paid off when Rafael Devers came through with a base hit to put the Sox up 2-0. The third baseman also got to second on the play, but he was left there.

Unfortunately, Sale couldn’t come through with a shutdown inning to keep momentum on Boston’s side. Galvis started this inning with his second hit of the day, but he was cut down on a double play immediately after that. Lourdes Gurriel then stepped to the plate, and he continued what’s been an underrated season to this point. Sale tossed him a middle-in fastball and Gurriel launched it out to center field for a solo shot, cutting Boston’s lead in half.

The Red Sox did have an answer in the third, though, as Christian Vázquez continued his shocking season at the plate. After two quick outs to start the fourth, the Red Sox catcher came out and jumped on a first-pitch cutter that stayed up in the zone over the middle of the plate. Vázquez blasted it to center field for a solo homer of his own, getting his team’s lead back up to two. The shot was his thirteenth of the year, which is wild for a guy who had ten career dingers heading into this season.

Sale just did not have it in this game once again, though, and that showed up again in the bottom half of the fourth. There, the trouble started with an uncharacteristic four-pitch walk to Justin Smoak. The Blue Jays first baseman has a good eye, to be fair, but you know something is off when he is issuing four-pitch walks to anyone. Danny Jansen then came up, and the red-hot catcher stayed, well, he stayed red-hot. He jumped all over a fastball down the middle up in the zone and hit a two-run shout out to left field. With one swing, this game was all tied up.

That would remain the score heading into the bottom of the sixth as the Red Sox offense fell into a slump against Waguespack. Sale, meanwhile, was coming off his first 1-2-3 inning of the night and looking for another one to finish things off. It did not start off well, though, when he hit the first batter of the inning. Fortunately, he followed that up with a double play. Unforutnately, that’s not where this story ends. Rowdy Tellez kept the inning going with a bloop single out to right field, which gave Drury a chance. Toronto’s number nine hitter got a fastball right down the heart of the plate and smashed a two-run shot to center field. Just like that, it was a two-run lead for the Blue Jays and Sale’s night was over. Marcus Walden came on to finish the inning.

So, in the seventh the Red Sox were playing from behind for the first time of the evening and needed to rally to turn things around. Vázquez got things going with a leadoff single, and then Chavis came out a couple batters later with a double. That put two in scoring position with one out, and Alex Cora made a bad move. As he’s done so often this year, he pinch hit Eduardo Núñez for Brock Holt with a lefty on the mound. That’s a bad move even if the lefty stays in, but it’s even worse when the opponent has a righty warming up that will come in when the move is made. That’s what happened here, and Núñez flew out on a ball too shallow to score the run. That left it all up to Betts, who struck out to end the inning with the Blue Jays still leading 5-3.

After Walden came back out for a scoreless eighth, the Red Sox had six more outs to complete the comeback. They managed only an infield single in the eighth. Steven Wright struggled in the bottom of the eighth and gave up one run, giving the Red Sox one last chance to score at least three. They could not do it, going down in order to end the game and take the loss.

So, the Red Sox will look to win the rubber match in this series on Thursday. It’s not clear who will start for either side. The Red Sox have not yet announced theirs, and Marcus Stroman seems likely to miss his scheduled start with an injury. First pitch is scheduled for 7:07 PM ET.