HOUSTON -- Red Sox ace Chris Sale played catch on Thursday and went through everything else in his normal between-starts ritual, but he did not throw a bullpen session.
However, manager Alex Cora said that the lanky lefty remains on track to start Game 6 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday if the Astros are victorious in Game 5 on Thursday. Otherwise, Sale would be in line to pitch Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday.
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Sale was hospitalized from Sunday into Monday with a stomach illness, but he finally seemed to be turning a corner on Thursday.
"He's doing well," said Cora. "He went through everything. He's feeling better as far as, like, eating solids, all that. So he'll be ready for his next start."
Given Sale's disrupted schedule this week, Cora said it won't be necessary to throw off a mound before a potential Game 6 at Fenway Park.
"No, no, we're good with it," said Cora. "I mean, as long as he doesn't feel weak or whatever. I saw him, actually, [earlier] in the hotel. I said, 'How you feeling?' 'Oh, much better.' And then he came here around the same time I was here, 'How you feeling?' 'Much better than earlier today.' That's good. He doesn't look as skinny as yesterday. Yesterday I was like, wow, you could see it in his face. But he's in good spirits, he feels better. He's eating better, which is great."
Show and tell?
The struggles of Boston closer Craig Kimbrel, who is 4-for-4 in save opportunities in this postseason, continues to be a topic.
Cora offered something new on Thursday, suggesting there might be a tell with Kimbrel's slider, which is preventing other teams from swinging at it.
"There's something with his slider, I think. There has to be something going on, because there's a lot of takes," Cora said. "Quality ones, too. They keep taking it, and that started in New York. Hopefully our video system is good and we can find what's going on and we can fix it. Although there's no fastball command, the quality of the sliders are good and they're not offering. Either they have a good game plan or it's paranoia from my end."
Believe it or not, Cora's toughest decision in his team's zany 8-6 win in Game 4 was not whether to stick with Kimbrel amid his harrowing struggles.
"Actually, it was early in the game with Rick [Porcello]. See how far I could stretch him out, because it looked bad, but was it that bad?" Cora said. "Ground-ball base hit, the [Tony] Kemp home run, which I think we went to the wrong spot. It wasn't hit hard. That was the hardest, honestly, because we needed four, at least four, to make it happen. At one point I was like, 'Oh God, are we going to be able to pull this off?' And he did. Give him credit. He did."
Vazquez providing a lift
Entering the postseason, the Red Sox weren't getting any offense from the catching position. Though Christian Vazquez (4-for-19 in these playoffs) isn't exactly setting the world on fire, he has come up with some key hits.
Vazquez homered in the clinching Game 4 of the AL Division Series at Yankee Stadium. He belted a key two-out double in Game 4 of the ALCS that set up the go-ahead two-run homer by Jackie Bradley Jr.
"I keep telling him it's night and day compared to early in the season. I don't know what happened," said Cora. "I don't know what happened early in the season."
Boston believed that Vazquez would be the team's catcher of the future when it signed him to a three-year, $13.55 million contract in Spring Training.
"I doubt he took it for granted. Probably he was putting pressure on himself. I know a lot of people were talking about it," said Cora. "Then he gets hurt, Sandy started playing well, and if you want to play, you've gotta play better. Since his workouts in Fort Myers [Fla.], he did everything right. He's doing an outstanding job with [catching instructors] Jason [Varitek] and [Chad Epperson] and [Rich Gedman]."