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Sox hold players-only meeting as skid continues

Sale chased, then ejected in Game 1 of doubleheader vs. Yanks
@IanMBrowne
August 3, 2019

NEW YORK -- The most frustrating season of Chris Sale's life -- and there isn’t even a close second -- hit rock bottom in Game 1 of a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. Trying to rescue his reeling team from its worst losing streak in four years, Sale

NEW YORK -- The most frustrating season of Chris Sale's life -- and there isn’t even a close second -- hit rock bottom in Game 1 of a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

Trying to rescue his reeling team from its worst losing streak in four years, Sale stabilized the game through the first three innings and then had a complete implosion in the fourth, when the Yankees tagged him for seven runs en route to a 9-2 loss.

Box score

Red Sox manager Alex Cora and Sale both became incensed by home-plate umpire Mike Estabrook’s strike zone.

J.D. Martinez was also angered in the first inning when he was called out on strikes on a pitch that looked low and out of the zone. Cora was ejected during a mound visit with Sale earlier in the fourth inning. And when Sale walked off the mound after being removed from the game, he also gave Estabrook an earful and was ejected.

“I didn’t agree with the call. I think it was the [Gio] Urshela one, the 0-2 pitch, it was on top of the zone and it was called a ball, and then after that, it kind of snowballed,” Cora said. “We didn’t make pitches and they put the ball in play, and you saw what happened. We didn’t agree with the strike zone and I let him know. There was one pitch to Xander [Bogaerts], the 3-1, we thought it was down. To J.D., the strikeout, we thought it was down. I let him know.”

And Sale also let Estabrook know with some harsh words as he walked back to the dugout.

“It’s tough,” Sale said. “This is a good lineup. It’s hard enough playing this game as it is. You give these guys extra outs, it’s going to hurt. It kind of changed the landscape of the game. I’ve got to do a little bit better job of locking it in and getting my job done, not worrying about what’s going on back there against him. Nonetheless, it’s tough.”

The afternoon marked not just a low point for Sale but also for the Red Sox, who have lost as many as six in a row for the first time since 2015. The defeat marked the one-week anniversary of the day Boston took its third straight from New York to reduce its deficit in the American League East to eight games. The Red Sox trail by a whopping 12 1/2 games, and even the most eternal optimist would now have to admit the defending World Series champions are playing for an AL Wild Card spot. The Sox trail the Rays by 4 1/2 games for the second Wild Card spot.

After the tough loss was over, the Red Sox took the unusual step of having a players-only team meeting in between games of a doubleheader.

“When things come up, you’ve got to address it. We care about each other,” Sale said. “Obviously, we’re not playing the way we want, but we take a lot of pride and we respect each other, and we love each other. We grind together, we win together, we lose together, and when something comes up or someone has something to say, we have enough respect for each other to get together as a group and go over some things. That’s just how it goes.”

In 3 2/3 innings, Sale was tagged for nine hits and eight runs. He walked none while striking out four. The two homers Sale gave up were both to Yankees spark plug DJ LeMahieu, including a three-run shot in the fourth that turned a close game into a romp.

“He's not a guy I really want to face,” LeMahieu said. “I've just had some good swings off of him. I was ready for his heater; his heater is pretty darn good. I was able to adjust to his other pitches. As an offensive unit, I felt like we battled and made him throw a lot of pitches. We really made him throw pitches over the plate.”

The eight earned runs allowed in a start matched a career high for Sale, and it was the first time he has allowed that many runs in a start in his three seasons with the Red Sox.

“I think if you look at how my games are going, it’s just pitches that are left out over the plate,” Sale said. “It seems like guys now are hitting the mistakes. In previous years if you make a few mistakes, you might get away with a couple. Honestly, I haven’t been good, but I haven’t been lucky at all either. Just seems like every mistake I make gets capitalized on by the other side.”

Sale is now 5-11 with a 4.68 ERA. That stat line is stunning when you consider Sale came into the season 103-62 with a 2.89 career ERA.

This rivalry matchup has been particularly frustrating for Sale this season. He has a 9.90 ERA in four starts against the Yankees. In each of those outings, he has pitched more than 5 1/3 innings just once. Prior to this season, Sale had typically dazzled against New York, notching a 1.75 ERA in 15 starts, including the postseason.

“I don’t know, I think that’s something you’ve got to ask them, something that I’ve got to personally look back on and see what was going on the last couple of years and see what’s going on here, but just too many balls out over the plate,” Sale said.

Just as Sale needs to fix himself, the Red Sox (59-53) need to do the same as a team.

“It’s a collective effort,” Cora said. “We’re not going to quit here. We’re going to keep playing. We show up tonight and put good at-bats, make pitches and win the ballgame.”

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