BOSTON (CBS) — It’s not often that the Red Sox offense has had to bail out ace Chris Sale this season. But that’s exactly what happened in Tuesday night’s bizarro world game at Fenway Park.
After holding opponents off the scoreboard in his three previous starts, Sale was tagged for seven runs in five innings by the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday. They’re one of the few teams that seem to have the lefty’s number, as Sale’s career ERA against Cleveland ballooned to 4.44 — the highest of any AL opponent, minus his 9.00 ERA in his one start against his former team, the Chicago White Sox.
He was ecstatic that the Boston offense bailed him out and came away with a thrilling walk-off win despite his worst start of the season, but Sale was still pretty miffed with himself after the 12-10 Boston victory on Tuesday night.
“It was just command. I left a lot of pitches over the plate and with a team like that, you can’t do that obviously. The big thing tonight was not keeping the ball in the ballpark,” Sale said of the pair of longballs he surrendered. “Just made bad pitches at bad times, honestly.”
The one that really got Sale ticked with himself was a fifth-inning blast by Edwin Encarnacion. He settled down to retire eight straight after allowing five runs over the first two innings (included a pair of runs off a Brent Guyer blast in the second), and the Boston offense plated five of their own runs to tie things up. But with two outs in the top of the fifth, Cleveland jumped back on top when Encarnacion launched a 3-2 slider from Sale deep into the night’s sky.
“That is the one that crushed me. You have to grind; you can’t give in or give up. You give up three in the first and two in the second, it’s time to go out there and get it done any way you can. I had been on a bit of a roll there, and not only that but to have my guys fight back … For me to pop the balloon there, it stung,” he admitted.
As he always does, Sale placed all the onus for his poor outing on himself, displaying his usual accountability. He commended Christian Vazquez’s work behind the plate in what was the catcher’s first time catching Sale.
“He is one of the better guys around here and you guys have seen it too. It didn’t matter who was back there tonight, honestly, I just had a bad night; an off night,” said Sale. “Everything was leaking back over the middle and I struggled to keep it in the park.”
Vasquez went on to be the game’s hero when he crushed a three-run blast in the bottom of the ninth for the walk-off win, Boston’s biggest of the season.
“Luckily I had some guys in my corner. This was an interesting game, but to come out on top was huge for us,” he said. “In the end it was nice to get the win. Vazquez had a great at-bat and that whole bottom of the ninth was fun to watch.”
Sale wasn’t alone in his struggles during Tuesday night’s slugfest. Cleveland starter Carlos Carassco lasted just 1.2 innings before being pulled, and three of the game’s best relievers, including both closers, each earned blown saves on the evening.
Even with Tuesday night’s hiccup, Sale remains the favorite to run away with the AL Cy Young award at the end of the year. He’s been on the top of his game just about every time he’s toed the rubber this season, and if he’s been tagged with a loss it has usually been due to the offense’s lack of pop. It’s nice to see the Boston bats bail him out on a rare off-night for the ace.