Chris Sale is not right. Three starts into his season, that much is clear. Most alarming of all, even he is perplexed about what is wrong.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever pitched like this in my life,’’ he said after allowing five earned runs in four innings during the malaise-addled Red Sox’ 7-5 loss to the Blue Jays in their home opener Tuesday. “I’ve got to keep fighting. No giving up. [I’m] trying to find something. This wasn’t us not playing good today. This was me sucking.’’
Tuesday was supposed to be an afternoon of celebrations, comebacks and happy returns for the Red Sox, who raised their 2018 championship banner in their 2019 Fenway premiere after beginning the season with 11 games on a bumpy journey through Seattle, Oakland, and Arizona.
It supposed to be was a fresh start on their lousy start.
Dustin Pedroia made his season debut at second base after missing all but three games last season, the recently retired Rob Gronkowski was among the Patriots who joined the pregame fiesta, and even the relatively reclusive Manny Ramirez returned for the festivities.
Good times and good vibes abounded, and they continued into the game, when Mitch Moreland’s solo homer gave the Red Sox their first Fenway run of the season in the bottom of the first.
But the happiest return would have come had Sale returned to his All-Star form. For a brief while, it went according to plan. He retired the first seven Blue Jays, recording his first swing-and-miss on a fastball of the season in that span. After which, he coughed up a 2-0 lead, failed to pitch into the fifth despite throwing 76 pitches, and dropped to 0-3 with a 9.00 earned run average on the season.
The Jays did their damage methodically, scoring a run on three straight one-out singles in the third. Teoscar Hernandez’s sacrifice fly tied it at 2-2.
The first three hitters in the fourth inning also singled, with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. driving in the go-ahead run. Ignominiously, Sale was the victim of a steal of home by Gurriel Jr. later in the inning, giving Toronto a 5-2 lead.
“Today was on me,’’ he said afterward. “We were supposed to win today’s game. We score five runs on a day that I start, we’ve got to win that one. I wouldn’t exactly say today was a team funk day, today was just me not being who I needed to be.’’
Sale’s candor is unsurprising, but the Red Sox — six games behind the Rays in the AL East — need solutions more than my-bad accountability right now.
Sale said there isn’t anything wrong with him physically. “I feel good,’’ he said. “It’s nothing like that.’’
Should his struggles continue, it might become more difficult to hear that answer without skepticism. But he deserves that benefit of the doubt now — he did touch 94 miles per hour in the first inning after laboring in the upper 80s in his last start against Oakland.
Published at Wed, 10 Apr 2019 09:00:00 +0000