BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox had a chance to strengthen their hold of the AL East over the weekend. When that was no longer an option, they at least had a chance to split their four-game set against the Yankees with Chris Sale on the hill on Sunday night.

But that didn’t happen either, as Sale was roughed up by the Yanks and Boston dropped Sunday night’s series finale 9-2 at Yankee Stadium. Unless they meet in the playoffs, Sale will go winless against the New York Yankees in his first season in a Red Sox uniform.

With the chance to build Boston’s lead in the AL East back up to 5.5 games, Sale lasted just 4.1 innings in his biggest start of the season, surrendering a trio runs off of three solo homers. He lacked his consistent control and labored throughout the start, already up to 90 pitches when he went back out to start the fifth inning, and was lifted after a Sterling Castro single on his 109th pitch of the evening.

The loss dropped Sale to 15-7 on the season and 0-3 in five starts against New York (with a 2.65 ERA). The early season fears of a fatigued Sale fading down the stretch are starting to become a reality, with the lefty 1-3 with a 6.88 ERA in his last four start. Those three losses came against potential postseason foes in the Yankees and Indians.

As for Sale’s history of struggling once September and October roll around, he owns a 9-15 career record with a 3.84 ERA in those two months compared to his 2.82 career ERA in every other month of the regular season.

There is certainly reason to hit the panic button with Sale, as his track record is catching up to him. But there is also some added rest on the way for the 28-year-old, who has tossed 189.2 innings so far this season. Thanks to an off-day on Thursday, he’ll get an extra day of rest before toeing the rubber next Saturday against the Rays at Fenway Park, which should help lighten the late-season load for Sale. He’ll enjoy another extra day off next week thanks to an other off-day for the Red Sox on Monday.

To his credit, Sale continues to have faith that he’ll figure out his late-season woes before October baseball rolls around.

“Don’t worry about me. I’m doing all right,” Sale told reporters in New York. “I had a rough one tonight. I have another one coming up in five days, and looking forward to that one.”

As for Boston’s shrinking lead in the AL East, down to 3.5 games after dropping three of four in New York, Sale said it’s no time to panic with just a month left in the regular season.

“We’ve got plenty of time left,” said Sale. “Now is definitely not the time to panic. We know where we’re at. We know what we need to do. We’ve got a good homestand coming up. We’ll put in some good work and come out of there where we need to be.”

The Red Sox open a nine-game homestand on Monday night, with three-game sets against the Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics over the next 11 days. It’s a great opportunity to get back on track, and hope their ace can do the same.





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