clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Red Sox 5, Twins 4 (10): Chris Sale Is Back

Chris Sale looked like every bit the ace he has been proclaimed to be for years, but the Red Sox would need more than that to beat Minnesota tonight, and they got their spark at just the right time.

Minnesota Twins v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

I said a long time ago (you know, two weeks or so) that the Red Sox can simply not pitch well and hit well in the same game. Things just don’t line up that way, because the universe can sometimes be a cruel place and no one should ever watch baseball game without cursing at their television, apparently. Such was the case in tonight’s game, when a matchup many speculated as a pitcher’s battle presented itself as just that... with a few added layers.

“Sale Day” hasn’t had quite the feeling this season, but it was indeed “Sale Day”, as the Red Sox looked to get back to .500 as Boston faced a Minnesota Twins team looking for a good performance from former guy I used to think about in a Red Sox rotation, Sonny Gray.

Coming into this game, people, including some on this very site, though quietly, were discussing the reality of Chris Sale as an ace in this league. With an ERA of 11.25 and a WHIP north of 2 (2.08) coming into this start, and an affinity to giving up long balls, he just simply did not look like a guy who could give you a real quality start the way he has for his entire 13-year career. His affinity for giving up long balls was a liability this season, as it has plagued the rest of the rotation thus far. Safe to say, this start was very important in the trajectory of the 34-year-old’s season, and I’d go as far as to say it may have had an impact on the remainder of his prolific career.

Luckily for Sale, and debatably even more-so for the Red Sox, he looked fantastic. To call this a vintage Chris Sale start would be underselling it, because even some recent callbacks of greatness Chris has displayed has been tinged with hard hit balls, and this appearance had no such occurrence. Chris Sale’s first six outs recorded were all strikeouts (he did allow a hit very early on in this one, which was probably a bit better for his game overall, I deduce.) He managed eleven strikeouts on the night and was continuously keeping guys guessing. The other side of the “Chris Sale is spent” argument is, following almost an entire season where he was inactive besides a two-week stretch in the summer, that this season we would need to give him about a month to gauge where he really is. Well, if 11 strikeouts in six innings is any indicator on where things might go with future starts, it’s something to feel really good about.

Now for the bad news:

The Red Sox have got to get better at capitalizing on early opportunities to score, both early in games and early in innings. Through the same two innings where Chris Sale cooked the Twins’ lineup for those six strikeouts, the Red Sox stranded five runners on their offensive errors, each by way of a strikeout, from Triston Casas and Justin Turner, respectively. To be fair to Justin Turner, the game took a strange turn for a few minutes while some ducks had a romantic night out in Boston on the field. They probably thought everyone was there to see them, and had it not been for Chris Sale’s performance, with these bats, they may not have been too far off.

With the game tied and Chris Sale holding his end of the bargain incredibly, after a 1-2-3 3rd that saw Casas strike out swinging again, a Devers fly-out would squander another two runners, including Connor Wong at third. The score was 1-0, but not for long, as Sale would get into some trouble in the 5th and surrender his only run of the game via a Carlos Correa fly-out to score Michael A. Taylor. After the sixth inning saw Sale strike out two more guys, it was time for Josh Winckowski to come in and continue his commanding season.

He gave up a home run to Max Kepler two pitches in, and the Red Sox were down 2-1. It was a moment of intense scoffing and eye-rolling, and if you’re into that sort of thing, downing alcohol. It’s a thing we’ve seen the Red Sox bullpen do far too often last season: squander a strong starting performance, quickly. Winckowski recovered, though, and struck out two consecutive Twins directly after that, and three total in his two innings of work.

Too bad the Sox offense did nothing with this, including seeing Triston Casas strike out a fourth time in the seventh. This offense was a liability... until deep in the 8th inning, that is.

Old friend Christian Vazquez acquainted Boston with a new friend, a catcher’s interference, interestingly enough, on a catcher, Reese McGuire, who came in for Connor Wong since he bats over his weight. Kiké Hernandez scored one play later on a Jarren Duran fielder’s choice that saw Hernandez make that choice look like not a good one, beating out Vazquez’s outstretched arm. And, for the record, though he’s still striking out quite a bit, Jarren Duran has looked better up in Boston than he did in Worcester so far! As the Sox do nothing with good opportunities, the next two batters then struck out.

Kenley Jansen was in typical Kenley Jansen form in the ninth inning, striking two out to bring the total to sixteen on the night through nine, but again, the Boston bats went down on strikes as well, even with some long at bats, and so we were headed to extras.

John Schreiber came in in the tenth, and boy, he did not have his best stuff, walking two right away, The ghost runner scored on a Byron Buxton fly, and then Hernandez didn’t have the play at the plate on a Jose Miranda grounder, so he got the easy out at first, and so the score was a seemingly insurmountable 4-2. Schreiber continued to struggle to find the strike zone, with a strike ratio hovering lower than 50%. Mercifully, the inning ended with a Trevor Larnach fly to Duran.

Boston faithful, in the bottom of the tenth, your faith must have been put into the collapse of the arm of Jovani Moran, after Jhoan Duran hit 102 miles per hour, which I guess is pretty fast, in the ninth. And after a passed ball by Vazquez it was up to... oh, Triston Casas, the guy who’d struck out four times this game. Except he was nice and patient and drew a walk! Reese McGuire then hit a nice little looper above third to score two, still with no outs... and then Jarren Duran hit a slider right up the middle to advance everyone.

Remember when I was saying the Red Sox need to make the most of their opportunities? With the ball game on the line in extras and no outs and the bases loaded, this is what I’m talking about. Squandering this would prove my point tenfold.

Rob Refsnyder got involved in a double play on a dribbler that also saw Casas get tagged out running to the plate... oh boy, I can’t wait to type “I told you so.” But what would it prove? This is the biggest issue the Red Sox have, and they have a bunch.

Alex Verdugo didn’t feel like hearing me tonight. And honestly, neither did I.

A ball that soared innocently around the Pesky Pole, one that even Alex Verdugo thought was a foul and which led to Woonsocket’s Finest Rocco Baldelli calling for a challenge, refusing to think it hit fair ground... but it did.

The Red Sox won on that Verdugo totally fair ball 5-4. The Red Sox still need to capitalize on these RISP opportunities, and Alex Verdugo may owe a few thousand dollars in FCC complaints thanks to his post-walk-off celebration interview (we’re live, Alex!) But for tonight, Boston pulled one out to improve to 9-9 in a bizarre game that got weirder as the game went on.

Just how they drew it up, right?

Three Studs

  1. Chris Sale: .234 WPA, 6 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 11 K, 2 BB
  2. Alex Verdugo: .304 WPA, 3-5, 1 RBI, 1 R 1 BB, 1 K
  3. Jarren Duran: .294 WPA, 2-5, 1 RBI, 1 SO

Three Duds

  1. John Schreiber: -.402 WPA, 1 IP, 1 ER, 1 K, 1 BB
  2. Rob Refsnyder: -.323 WPA, 0-1
  3. Masataka Yoshida: -.229 WPA, 0-5

Play of the Game

It was Verdugo’s fly to right to walk the game off, with a .362 WPA. You didn’t need me to tell you this. But with all the other crazy plays this game especially in the last inning, it’s nice to confirm it, isn’t it?


Who was the Red Sox Player of the game?

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    Chris Sale
    (148 votes)
  • 17%
    Alex Verdugo
    (33 votes)
  • 1%
    Jarren Duran
    (3 votes)
184 votes total Vote Now