Sale's gem sullied by Jansen's 2nd straight blown save

May 14th, 2023

BOSTON -- On the heels of ’s gem, closer took the ball at Fenway Park with a two-run lead in the ninth, and then -- for the second straight night -- the wheels came off.

Following a free pass due to a pitch timer violation, Boston’s stopper was unable to get back on track. The Cardinals took full advantage, plating three and pulling off their second consecutive ninth-inning comeback to hand the Red Sox a 4-3 loss on Saturday afternoon.

“The pitcher needs to give the hitter time to be in the box and alert,” explained manager Alex Cora following the loss. “I think the whole thing was that they were getting in the box at eight [seconds], and Kenley was going already. They give you a warning, and then after that it’s an automatic ball.”

The violation in question came when Willson Contreras was at the plate but had not yet settled into the batter’s box before Jansen went to throw a pitch. The Sox closer got a warning, but he was called for the violation again a couple pitches later, this time on a 3-1 count, putting runners on first and second with no outs.

“When I went to see the [video], his hands were up and he was looking at me, but his feet were out [of the batter’s box],” said Jansen. “I’m focused and was like, ‘He’s looking at me, I’m going to come home.' Those were the things I learned today.”

“That’s nothing against them, but I have to take advantage of the clock a little bit, especially in those situations where we’re looking to create a rally,” Contreras explained. “He’s been struggling since last night throwing strikes, so I was just getting him upset a little bit, and it was nothing disrespectful.”

With one out in the ninth, pinch-hitter Nolan Gorman pulled the Cardinals to within one run of the Red Sox with a double. Then a slow-rolling double-play ball off the bat of Alec Burleson saw Kiké Hernández's throw to first base go awry, allowing the eventual winning run to cross.

“They messed with me, and it pays off for them. I didn’t pay attention,” added Jansen. “That’s my fault and my responsibility. … It sucks. It cost me a game.”

“He’s in the ninth inning for a reason,” said Sale. “We have all the confidence in the world in him. You dust yourself off, come back tomorrow ready to go. The next time he steps out there, we’re all going to be on the top shelf waiting for him to lock it down. That’s how the game goes sometimes.”

For Sale, it was a third straight quality start as he logged eight innings for the first time since Aug. 8, 2019, and tossed 110 pitches, the most since he threw 116 on July 23, 2019.

The left-hander looked strong out of the gate, allowing just two hits and a walk through six innings as his dreaded slider grew stronger. At one point, Sale retired 11 straight batters.

“Overall, a great, great job,” said Cora of Sale’s outing. “He’s trending in the right direction. That’s a positive for us.”

It was just two weeks ago on April 24 that the Red Sox's manager intimated that Sale may have been tipping pitches after giving up five runs in five innings against the Orioles.

In his three starts since, the 34-year-old has looked like the Sale of old, logging 20 1/3 innings, striking out 24 batters and allowing just five runs.

Sale surrendered a solo home run to Nolan Arenado to lead off the seventh inning, but then he struck out the next three batters, giving him nine K’s on the day.

With 92 pitches thrown through seven innings, Sale went back to work in the eighth and retired three straight batters to close out his day.

“I’ve said it before, our job as starters is to take up as much of the game as we can,” said Sale. “On top of that, our bullpen, we really relied on them heavily at the beginning of the year. They’ve been nails for us. Any time we can use as few guys as we can out there, it’s a plus."