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Tribe proving to be Sox ace Sale's nemesis

Boston lefty can't explain career struggles vs. Cleveland
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

CLEVELAND -- Red Sox ace Chris Sale didn't go so far as to call the Indians his daddy, as Pedro Martinez infamously referred to the Yankees back in 2004.

But the lefty fully admitted the depth of his recent woes against the Tribe after Thursday's 13-6 loss, and he realizes it's on him to change this trend with the postseason looming.

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CLEVELAND -- Red Sox ace Chris Sale didn't go so far as to call the Indians his daddy, as Pedro Martinez infamously referred to the Yankees back in 2004.

But the lefty fully admitted the depth of his recent woes against the Tribe after Thursday's 13-6 loss, and he realizes it's on him to change this trend with the postseason looming.

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The Red Sox and Indians haven't locked anything up yet. Boston is up by 4 1/2 games in the American League East and Cleveland leads the AL Central by 5 1/2 games, and if those leads hold, there's a strong chance they will have an AL Division Series rematch.

Sale would pitch Game 1 of that series, no matter how much he has struggled against Cleveland.

In Thursday's finale of a four-game set, Sale was belted around to the tune of seven hits and seven runs (six earned) over three innings, which marked his shortest start as a member of the Red Sox.

Video: BOS@CLE: Francona on impressive offense in 13-6 win

"I wish I knew what it was," said Sale. "I'd try to fix it. I clearly haven't had my luck against this team, so back to the drawing board and see what we can get tomorrow."

The loss dropped Sale to 14-6 with a 2.88 ERA this season. In two starts against Cleveland this season, Sale is 0-1 with a 14.63 ERA.

How does this happen against a pitcher with the elite stuff that Sale possesses?

"I think that's something you might want to ask them," said Sale. "If I knew why they were having so much success, I'd certainly change it. I just stunk. If you look at the pitches they hit, over the plate, everything was up out over. I just [stunk], quite honestly."

One of the reasons the Yankees started to catch up to Martinez by 2004 was the fact he constantly pitched against them. Some of that could be in play with Sale, who spent his entire career in the AL Central before this season.

In 18 career starts against the Indians, Sale is 5-8 with a 5.19 ERA. Of the 12 times Sale has allowed six earned runs or more in his 174 career starts, five have been against Cleveland.

Video: BOS@CLE: Diaz tallies four hits, two RBIs vs. Red Sox

"But still, it comes down to consistent execution," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "Both Cleveland and Minnesota are two very good fastball-hitting teams. They're the two who have swung the bat the best against him. It's a matter of being able to throw your fastball to both sides of the plate for strikes and slow them down in certain counts."

The Red Sox will do all they can to aid Sale in his quest to improve his level of success against the Tribe.

"That's where we've got to go back and look at not only the two starts this year, but maybe over the course of a bigger time period where there might be other starts that we really comb through some video, to see if there's any common thread throughout these," said Farrell. "We know there are certain guys in that lineup that have had good success against him. We may have to look a little bit more explicitly at how we devise a game plan against him."

If the Indians do know why they are performing well against Sale, it's highly doubtful they're going to share it to the public.

"When you figure this game out, you can tell me," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We really did a good job offensively. We really made one of the best pitchers work hard and we got some runs."

But it isn't like the Indians will be racing to the bat rack to take swings against Sale should the sides meet again in October.

Video: BOS@CLE: Lindor plates Diaz with a single to left

"I guarantee you, our guys aren't [like], 'Oh good, Sale's pitching.' And he's had his way with us like all good pitchers do." said Francona. "I think we've done probably better than most teams against him. But boy, he's good. We've done a fairly good job against him."

Despite the way things have gone, Sale badly wants a chance to pitch against the Indians again in 2017 because it would mean he is in the postseason for the first time in his career.

"I would love it. I would absolutely love it," said Sale. "This is obviously a pretty good little rivalry, even though we're not in the division or anything like that. But given what happened last year and the series that we've had against each other this year, they've been phenomenal. But we've got to get there first. That's at the top of the list."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Chris Sale