BOSTON -- Given the level of anticipation for Chris Sale’s first April start for the Red Sox in four years -- and his first at Fenway since the 2021 American League Championship Series -- there was going to be a massive amount of scrutiny no matter how he performed.
Well, it didn’t go well at all on Saturday, as the lefty was hammered for seven hits and seven runs, including three homers, over just three innings vs. the Orioles.
The key will be where Sale goes from here. Next up, he will pitch in Detroit on Thursday in what will be the home opener for the Tigers.
It will be up to him to stop the noise of what will be a festive crowd and get himself back on track.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora has full confidence that one subpar start is not going to define Sale’s comeback from a 2022 season which included three separate broken-bone injuries.
“Was he great? No, he wasn’t. We know it. But we can’t overreact to one start,” Cora said on Sunday morning. “He’s going to make adjustments, and we’re going to go to places that we know we can get people out. If you look back, the changeup was good. Did we use it enough? Maybe, maybe not.”
Through the shaky stat line, there were signs of encouragement. Sale’s fastball topped out at 97.2 mph, a clear sign his arm is fresh and healthy. Of the 30 swings the Orioles took, Sale generated 13 whiffs. Of Sale’s nine outs, six were via the strikeout.
Location was a sizable issue.
“He was all over the place,” said Cora. “Erratic, very. But he still struck out [six]. That’s still a positive, right, for all the negative. I’m not saying that we’re going to focus only on that, but be ready for Thursday.”
Fortunately for Sale, the Red Sox rallied back from the 7-1 hole he put them in and came back with a thrilling 9-8, walk-off win.
That left Sale equal parts thrilled for his teammates and disappointed by his outing.
“We all played well except for one guy,” said Sale. “It just seemed like everything I threw up there, they were waiting for it. So, hey, now we’re heading back to the drawing board. We’ll have another one in four or five days. Sometimes you just suck. It’s unfortunate. I waited a while to pitch here at Fenway. To go out there and do that was embarrassing.”
On Thursday in Detroit, Sale will do everything in his power to shift the narrative.
“He’ll work on his delivery, work on his pitches, and hopefully the next one is better,” said Cora.