By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox’ current nine-game deficit in the AL East does not exist because of the performance of just one player. Trailing by so many games in the middle of the season requires the performances — or lack thereof — of a number of players on the roster.

Still, coming off a Sunday night loss at Fenway, one can’t help but wonder how differently the AL East might look if Chris Sale had been able to handle the Yankees this season.

Sale’s season on the whole — a 5-10 record and a 4.26 ERA — has been a grand disappointment. But he’s been particularly bad against the Yankees.

He was roughed up for six earned runs in just 5.1 innings of work on Sunday night, preventing the Red Sox from pulling off a four-game sweep, which would have injected at least a slight bit of hope for the Red Sox in the division. At the very least, it would have aided the Red Sox in their fight for a wild-card spot, and given them some added momentum as they wait for the Rays to come to town on Tuesday.

Sale’s nationally televised struggle on Sunday was not new, as he’s had his issues with New York all year long. He’s now 0-3 with a 7.71 ERA and 1.469 WHIP against the Yankees this season. He has struck out 23 batters over 16.1 innings, but he’s also served up four homers en route to allowing nearly a run per inning. In three starts, he’s averaged just 5.1 innings per outing.

After seemingly fixing some of his problems over his last two starts — during which he went 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 12 innings — Sale was right back in the same spot he’s been many times this season, befuddled while trying to explain to the media what went wrong.

“We had an unbelievable series up until today, and even today we gave them everything they could handle. I just have to sit here in front of you today, it’s kind of the same as a few other starts. Without me, we have a pretty good chance to win this game. That’s the toughest part,” Sale said. “As hard as we’ve been playing, as well as we’ve been playing as a whole, top to bottom, our lineup, our starting pitching, our bullpen, everyone has been doing really well and living up to what they need to do. To come out here and just be flat-out terrible, it’s tough.”

As usual, Sale didn’t mince words about his role in the 9-6 loss.

“I really kind of sucked the life out of us today, and it was kind of the deciding factor,” Sale said. “So that’s kind of the toughest part, is just being in a position to kind of really put the dagger in, and just kind of leaving the door open.”

He added: “Other than myself today, this team had an unbelievable series against a tough opponent.”

Sale’s problems with the Yankees this season are certainly new, as he went 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA and 0.769 WHIP last year against New York. He did go 0-3 against the Yankees in 2017, but that was hardly his fault; he posted a 2.65 ERA and 1.059 WHIP while recording 50 strikeouts over 34 innings.

Whatever the issues may be with Sale, both on the entire season and specifically with the Yankees, he knows that there’s really not a tremendous amount of time left to turn it around in time to help the Red Sox at least get into the postseason.

“We had a chance to sweep a four-game set against the team that’s in front of us,” Sale said. “We don’t have a whole bunch of games left. It’s time to go.”

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