BOSTON (CBS) — Ahead of his start against the Yankees in ALDS Game 1 on Friday, Red Sox lefty Chris Sale took the podium Thursday afternoon and talked about nearly everything.
There is one topic he would not touch though, and shot it down faster than the dip on his devastating slider. When asked to discuss his success against New York during the regular season (he was 2-0 and allowed just one run in 13 innings), Sale fired off an adamant “No.”
Much has changed since Sale last took the hill against the Yankees back on June 30. He was well on his way to earning his first Cy Young award at that point, but shoulder inflammation caused him sit out most of the final two months of the season. When he was on the bump, it was for abbreviated outings that served more as a second Spring Training for the lefty to build back strength. He pitched just 42 innings since he last faced the Yankees, and while he was 4-0 and held batters to a .184 average during that time, he was not the Chris Sale that was mowing everyone down the first half of the season.
But Sale got nine days to get everything back to normal between his last start and Friday’s postseason opener. His velocity was way down his last time out, hovering mostly around 92-94 MPH last Wednesday against the Orioles, but he’s confident that he’s made the necessary mechanical adjustments to go out and quiet New York’s powerful bats.
“The extended period of time allowed me to get more work in. Get off the mound a couple of times, use my legs and drive a little more, get a little more rotation in my lower half,” he explained. “Just trying to sharpen the tools, work on both sides of the plate and mix speeds.”
Sale confidently said he was healthy and ready to begin Boston’s quest for a World Series title.
“I’m ready to go. I’m at the point now where if you give me the ball, I’m going out to pitch until you take it out of my hand,” he said. “I know I have about 100 pitches to cover and I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.
“If I take the mound, I expect to win. I don’t care what I have on a given day, I should be able to find a way,” he added. “Sometimes you go out and have your best, and sometimes you don’t. This is baseball, you have to find a way and roll with it. I’ll take the ball tomorrow and I expect to win.”
While he wasn’t willing to talk about his success against the Yankees this season, Sale was open to chatting about his postseason debut last year, which did not go so well for the usually dominant ace. He surrendered seven runs in five innings to the Astros in Houston, with three of the nine hits he allowed leaving the park. The Astros cruised to a win and won the series in four games.
“I’m not trying to erase anything. It happened. I’m not running away from it,” he said. “I look back, realize the mistakes I made, and try to learn from it. I’m not going to hide from it; you can google it now or in 100 years and it’ll be there.
“I’m going to do everything I can to be better,” he said. “This is everything we show up for. We don’t play the game for anything else. Personal stats and wins in the regular season are what get us here, and we appreciate it. We grinded for all of that. We earned it. Now it’s crunch time. We know what’s ahead of us and we know what we have to do.”