By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — On the one hand, Chris Sale recorded eight of his 14 outs on Wednesday night by way of the strikeout. On the other hand, Sale only lasted 4.2 innings and showed a noticeable dip in velocity.
As tracked by Alex Speier of The Boston Globe, Sale averaged just 90.1 mph on his fastball, which was the lowest of his career. Amid the eight strikeouts, he allowed three runs (all earned) on four hits and a walk, offering a bit of a discouraging finish to his regular season.
Despite the drop in fastball velocity and despite the poor results, Sale assured everyone after the 10-3 Red Sox loss to Baltimore that everything will be A-OK when the postseason begins next Friday.
“I would say both,” Sale said when asked if there is a mental of physical lift when the playoffs begin. “Your adrenaline is pumping. It’s what we work for. It’s what we showed up to spring training for and grinded this whole year for. It’s a different ballgame. Once you get there, the chains are off. So you get a little boost of adrenaline as well, so that doesn’t hurt.”
Sale said that his shoulder — which kept him off the field for more than a month, save for one single start — feels fine. But he has noticed a mechanical issue in his previous start which he believes to be contributing to the lack of velocity.
“I saw some things last week, and even tonight, just not really driving off my lower half and not being able to kind of create that torque that I have in the past. We’ve got extended time now to figure out what we need to do,” Sale explained.
While many on the outside may have been concerned about Sale’s finish to the regular season (five earned runs in his final eight innings pitched), the left-hander insisted there’s no reason to panic.
“Now’s not the time to panic. A hundred and seven wins into the season and October ahead of us. It is what it is. You just take it in stride and try to build off of it and just try to get better,” he said. “Obviously I’m not where I want to be, but those are hard adjustments to make on the fly sometimes. So you just try to figure it out. When you see it, when you can look at it and visibly see it, it helps. So we’ll address it and try to correct it.”
Sale was outstanding during the 2017 regular season, when he recorded 308 strikeouts, good enough for the second-best mark in Red Sox history, behind only Pedro Martinez’s 313 in 1999. But Sale’s 2017 postseason was a disappointment, as he made two appearances (one start) and was tagged for nine earned runs in 8.2 innings. He also took two losses in the series, in Game 1 and the decisive Game 4.
Despite that recent history in the playoffs, Sale expressed confidence that he will be at his best next weekend.
“Once those lights flick on in October, I’ll be there,” he said.