Sale calls himself a 'liability' after loss to Dodgers

Lefty allows 5 runs in 3 straight starts for first time in career

July 14th, 2019

BOSTON -- The hope was that hitting the reset button -- and getting nine days of rest between starts -- would be just what needed to start resembling himself again. Instead, Sale’s recent skid continued amid what has been the most difficult season he’s ever had.

The Dodgers pestered the lefty just enough early, and then tacked on three runs in the fifth en route to an 11-2 victory over the Red Sox.

Sale (3-9, 4.27 ERA) was touched up for seven hits and five runs while throwing 92 pitches over 4 2/3 innings.

Not one to sugarcoat his struggles, Sale is instead wearing them.

“It’s the same old stuff,” he said. “Just not getting it done. Just making bad pitches. Not keeping the ball in the yard, not getting shutdown innings when I need to. Just same stuff as before.”

When one reporter mentioned to Sale that he seemed to drop his head after giving up back-to-back doubles to Justin Turner and David Freese in the game-turning fifth, Sale's frustrations boiled over again. But all of Sale’s ire was directed at himself.

“I’m going out there every fifth day and getting my [behind] kicked, what do you think? It’s not fun,” Sale said. “I’m still working, I’m still grinding. I’m not going to give up, but it’s tough going out there every day being a liability for your team.”

A couple of hours before the game, the Red Sox fortified the fifth spot in the rotation by acquiring in a trade with the Orioles. While that’s all well and good, fixing Sale remains the biggest priority of all down the stretch. That would be more valuable than any trade acquisition.

“I mean, we need him, we know that,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “We’ll look at everything. We’ve been doing that for a while, but we have to get him right. He came out of the first inning right away throwing hard, 94-95, there was some 97s. It seems like the slider was playing early in the game, but then halfway through it, the at-bats got better.

“We have to figure it out. We will. This guy is one of the best pitchers in the big leagues, and that’s on us to get him right.”

It’s a good thing Sale wasn’t in the room when Cora said it was on the coaches to fix him, because that would have forced him to seethe all over again.

“[There’s] nobody else to blame. In a way, I guess that’s a good thing. It’s all on me,” Sale said. “So I’ve got to look within, dig deep, and find a way to get out of it.”

The way Sale looked at it, his revival would start on Saturday night, coming out of an extended break. That hope vanished swiftly.

“Yeah, that was the plan,” Sale said. “I wanted to come out firing, wanted to come out and get off on the right foot, especially after a big win last night. [Eduardo Rodriguez] shoved and we swung the bat well, we played a great game last night. Had some momentum. Even leading into the break we had some momentum. [I] wasn’t able to get it done, yet again.”

The season started very roughly for Sale, who had an 8.50 ERA through four starts. Then he gathered himself, notching a 2.44 ERA over his next 12 outings.

But that was before these past three starts, in which Sale is 0-3 with an 8.27 ERA. This marks the first time in Sale’s career he’s allowed at least five runs in three straight starts.

In the early-season slump, velocity and lack of swings and misses were an issue. Now, it’s a command issue. Sale hit 98 mph in the first inning on Saturday but couldn’t sustain it. He did generate 14 swings and misses on the night.

“Just trying to locate my fastball. That’s kind of the biggest thing. I’ve been throwing it all over the place,” Sale said. “I’m trying to throw it in, it’s going away. I’m trying to throw it away, it’s kind of yanking. All my hit by pitches this year, I think, have been on breaking balls to right-handed hitters. On breaking balls, that can’t happen.”

Fenway, in particular, has not been kind this season to Sale, who is 0-3 with a 4.76 ERA in nine home starts. Dating back to last season, this was Sale’s 13th consecutive home start without a win, setting a dubious franchise record that is somewhat misleading because the lefty made two shorter appearances late last season when he was coming back from an injury.

The most painful stat at the moment is that the defending World Series champions are 6-13 in Sale’s starts this season.

“Like I said, it’s on me. I’ve got to find a way. And I’m confident I will,” Sale said.

Whenever an elite pitcher struggles, there is always speculation that health is an issue. Sale continues to be emphatic in saying it’s not.

“I’m fine,” Sale said. “Just not getting it done. I usually can go out there and find a way, navigate your way through a game. You’re going to hit some rough patches and things like that, and I’m usually able to get out of it. But for whatever reason, the cards aren’t falling my way, luck’s not going my way, and I’m not helping myself out either. So, I’ve got no other excuses.”

Wright hit on right foot
Knuckleballer also had a tough Saturday night at Fenway, giving up back-to-back homers, and leaving the game after a liner from Max Muncy belted him on the right foot.

X-rays were negative, and the diagnosis is a contusion.

“We’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” Cora said. “The ball was hit hard. ... He’s limping down there. We’ll see.”