I want to say it can’t get any worse, but that feels like tempting fate. The Red Sox got smoked in the first game of their doubleheader on Saturday. The umpiring was bad, but more important was that the Red Sox were bad. Chris Sale was bad. The offense was bad. Everything was bad. I hated it.
I don’t even know, you guys. Saturday’s doubleheader felt like something of a pivot point for the Red Sox season, where we kind of knew what was going to happen the rest of the way based on what we saw on the field. It wasn’t even necessarily about winning both games — though no one would complain about that — but rather just look like a competitive baseball team in both and win at least one. It’s not a high bar! If they couldn’t do that, after losing five games in a row for the first time in four years, then it was going to be hard to feel good about this team for the rest of the year.
Folks, things did not go so well for Chris Sale and the Red Sox in the first game of the series. The umpire, Mike Estabrook had the game behind the plate, was awful in this game. I hate talking about umpires, but he was truly terrible and it resulted in ejections for Alex Cora and Chris Sale. Estabrook deserves the criticism he receives for this afternoon. That is not the same as saying Sale deserves anything besides essentially full blame for his performance. Once again, the Red Sox ace looked like anything but an ace.
Things started as poorly as possible for Sale, too. On his fifth pitch of the afternoon to the leadoff man DJ LeMahieu, Sale left a fastball right over the heart of the plate and the Yankees infielder smashed a leadoff home run. As quickly as the bottom of the first started New York had a 1-0 lead. Sale then hit the next batter he faced before settling down and getting out of the inning with just the one run on the board.
The good news is, for a brief second the Red Sox did get back in the game. The red-hot Andrew Benintendi led off the inning and, well, he stayed red hot. The lefty got a hanging curveball from Domingo Germán, and he absolutely demolished it to tie this game up.
Even better: Sale actually got a shutdown inning! It’s been very, very rare for the Red Sox pitching staff this week but Sale got it done in the second and the third. He faced only six batters in those two frames.
Then, in the bottom of the fourth with the score still tied at one and the offense struggling against both Germán and Estabrook, all hell broke loose in the worst possible way. Sale gave up a leadoff single in the inning but then got a fly out for out number one. That brought Gio Urshela up to the plate and it looked like Sale got a three-pitch strikeout. Instead, the pitch at the top of the zone was called a ball, the at bat continued and Urshela eventually got a base hit.
Sale was clearly frustrated at this point, but he came back and got a pop up before allowing a third single to load the bases. Breyvic Valera was up next and he got a fourth single of the inning, this one driving in a run and giving the Yankees their lead back. Cora came to the mound at this point, less to have a meeting with his players and more to have a chance to speak his mind to Estabrook and eventually get run.
After what happened next, Cora probably didn’t get the worst deal out of this not having to sit through the rest of the inning. Like I said above, Sale — and moreso the hitters — had every right to be mad at the strike zone. Ultimately, though, he has to make pitches and he didn’t. The Yankees got another base hit to score two more — and Sale didn’t back up home plate which gave extra bases to the runners who didn’t score — before LeMahieu hit his second homer of the day. In the blink of an eye, the Yankees had a 7-1 lead. Sale eventually was taken out before the inning ended — and was ejected on his way off the field — and was charged with one more inherited run before the inning ended with New York leading 8-1.
That was basically that. The Red Sox did get another run right after the big inning on a home run from Jackie Bradley Jr. The Yankees would also add another run to their total, because of course. One positive was that Josh Smith gave the team some much-needed length out of the bullpen, tossing four innings to finish off the day.
The Red Sox and Yankees play again in just a few hours. Brian Johnson starts for the Red Sox while the Yankees have not yet announced their starter. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM ET.