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Sale reaches 10-K mark for first time in '19

Lefty ace tosses just five frames, but sees improvement with slider
@IanMBrowne
April 23, 2019

BOSTON -- This time, Red Sox ace Chris Sale didn’t say that he was embarrassed for his family, his team and the city of Boston. Though Tuesday’s performance against the Tigers hardly represented Sale’s end goal, he at last felt some progress amid the most disappointing start to a season

BOSTON -- This time, Red Sox ace Chris Sale didn’t say that he was embarrassed for his family, his team and the city of Boston.

Though Tuesday’s performance against the Tigers hardly represented Sale’s end goal, he at last felt some progress amid the most disappointing start to a season he has ever had.

Sale allowed two runs and two walks while notching a season-high 10 strikeouts. He took a no-decision as the Red Sox lost Game 1 of a day-night doubleheader, 7-4.

“I'd definitely say this is a step in the right direction,” Sale said. “Not exactly where we want to be but better."

Making his fifth start of the season, Sale had mixed results. But he also had a body of work to build on heading into his next start, which will likely be on Sunday at Fenway against the Rays.

The good? Sale had 10 strikeouts in a start for the first time since Aug. 12, 2018, and his team was right in the game (tied at 2) when he departed. He lowered his ERA from 8.50 to 7.43.

“Yeah, I mean, I at least gave my team a chance to win when I left the ballgame,” Sale said.

The bad? Sale lasted just five innings and threw 97 pitches while giving up six batted balls of 100 mph or more for the third time this season. For context, Sale had just one start last season when he gave up that much hard contact, and it was in Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Yankees, when he was still building back up after spending most of the second half on the injured list.

“Stuff is starting to get there, but I need to extend these outings a little bit,” Sale said. “It would just be nice to go out there and fill up seven or eight innings or finish a game for these guys and give them a day off or give a few of them a day off. It seems like every time I’m out there, I’m just leaning on these guys and that’s just a tough spot to put them in.”

The Tigers were pesky in this one, hitting a ton of foul balls on two-strike counts. How can Sale prevent that?

“Just putting it all together,” Sale said. “Kind of having everything working at one time. With the command, with the stuff. They were swinging the bats a lot today and that obviously helped me in some ways, but too many foul balls, too many deep counts, walked a couple guys. I need to clean some things up around the edges. But we'll get there."

The good? Sale’s slider looked mostly electric, and he generated seven swinging strikes and 14 called strikes out of the 49 that he threw.

"He’s tough,” said Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire. “He’s throwing mid-90s and he’s got that big, looping back-door breaking ball and he’s got one that goes down and in at your back foot. So he’s tough and he’s going to punch out guys. That’s what he’s known for and that’s what he does. But he had a good day. Punched out a whole bunch of us. Believe me, I’m writing them down so I knew it better than anybody."

The bad? After averaging 95.4 mph with his fastball in his last start at Yankee Stadium, Sale was down to 92.7 mph in this one.

“With Chris, strikeouts and foul balls add up to that pitch count,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “Velocity was OK. Thought the slider was good, the changeup was OK. But there were a lot of long at-bats. They did that to him last year, too, in Detroit. Give them credit for fouling off, and he struck out 10 guys so we had the swings and misses. Obviously we were looking for six or seven [innings]. Hopefully that’s the next step.”

Bogaerts belts a pair

If not for Xander Bogaerts, the final score of Game 1 would not have been competitive. But the shortstop belted a pair of solo shots over the Green Monster. The first one tied the game at 3 in the bottom of the sixth.

In so doing, Bogaerts emerged from a recent slump in which he had just five hits and one extra-base hit in 24 at-bats.

“Prior to that [first homer], I wasn't feeling right,” Bogaerts said. “Just some stuff wasn't clicking and then out of nowhere you hit one out, and then you hit another one. This game is so weird, man. When you're not feeling right, all it takes is one swing or just one pitch that you're looking for and you get it and don't miss it and can start feeling right again. That's the weird part of baseball, stuff like that.”

What had been bothering Bogaerts?

“I felt I wasn't too aggressive on the inside pitch,” Bogaerts said. “I was just jamming it into center field or right field or taking it. I just didn't have that click where I see it there and I can react to it. I was in the video [room] with [hitting coach] Tim [Hyers]. I just came in to check on that, because something wasn't right, and I got two pitches I was able to hit out.”

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