After impressive start with Braves, Sale reflects on time with Sox

Lefty tosses six shutout innings with 10 strikeouts

May 9th, 2024

ATLANTA – No matter what uniform wears, the following is indisputable: When his fastball is powerful and his slider is in full dive mode, he is dominant.

Pitching for his new team (the Braves) while facing his most recent former team (the Red Sox), Sale had his two best weapons working in sync.

The Braves rode their lanky and healthy lefty to a 5-0 victory over the Red Sox on Wednesday to sweep this two-game series at Truist Park.

Facing the Red Sox for the first time since he was a member of the White Sox in 2016, Sale (5-1, 2.95 ERA) was vintage.

In his best start as a Brave, Sale fired six shutout innings in which he scattered six hits while walking one and striking out a season-high 10, generating 20 whiffs from the 49 swings Boston took against him.

“It’s always weird facing your old team,” said Sale. “I’ve obviously only done it once before with Chicago. It was a little bit different this go-around.”

In Boston, Sale rode a wave of dominance for two seasons, capped by a World Series title in ‘18. But over his final five years with the Red Sox, injuries became the prevalent theme. All the highs and lows made Wednesday’s reunion much more layered than the one he had against the White Sox in ‘17.

“Yeah, we won a championship together,” said Sale. “I watched Rafael Devers make his Major League debut and turn into a $300 million superstar. I was watching Kutter Crawford at FGCU. That guy is like a little brother to me. Even Nick Pivetta, he lived in Southwest Florida and we had an entire offseason together. The list goes on and on. I could sit here and talk about [Red Sox manager Alex Cora] for the next three hours. It is different.”

Going about his business with his family over New Year’s weekend, Sale was somewhat stunned when Red Sox chief baseball officer Craig Breslow told him he had a deal worked out to trade him to the Braves for Vaughn Grissom.

After weighing all of the pros and cons, Sale decided to waive his no-trade rights and end his seven-year run in Boston, joining a top championship contender in the process.

So far, the decision has looked spot on for Sale and the Braves.

The Red Sox are building around a young core and Grissom, a second baseman, is part of that.

Sale emphasized that there were no hard feelings when the deal was completed, and no extra motivation on Wednesday to stick it to his old team for trading him.

“No,” said Sale. “Again, that was about as clean a break as you could possibly have from one team to another. If there’s anything I want to do, I owe it to Atlanta to be the best that I can be. I went into this offseason on a mission and it was the first offseason I’ve had in a while where I wasn’t having to deal with something. I got after it.”

The 35-year-old was able to compartmentalize for six innings, but had no problem being reflective after the game.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again until I run out of breath. I love those guys,” Sale said. “I always will. The memories I made with them were good and bad. On the flip side of that, this is a competitive game and we have a job to do.”

The competitive fire is what endeared Sale to his teammates, his manager and the city of Boston.

Last year, when Sale posted every fifth day after rushing back from a stress reaction in his shoulder, he gained a new level of respect from a group of young pitchers who are coming into their own this season.

“He tried everything to be out there,” said Cora. “Last year, he led by example, which is very important for this group. I bet a lot of those guys learned [from Sale] how to become a big leaguer, how to post every five days regardless of how you feel physically.”

For Sale to have no physical limitations thus far this season is something the Red Sox can appreciate, even on a night he bested them.

“It was exciting. I was really happy to see him out there,” said Pivetta, who took the loss in his return from the injured list. “I was mostly focused on what I had to do tonight. I had to face that lineup and what I had to do to kind of put my team in the best position to win. Unfortunately I wasn't able to do that.”

Instead, it was Sale’s night.

“I just want to keep riding this wave for as long as I can,” Sale said.