Sale one and done: 'We'll get him right'

October 10th, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG -- hoped his Game 2 start in the American League Division Series would offer redemption after his underwhelming performance in the Red Sox’s regular-season finale at Washington. Instead, it presented one of the earliest exits of his career.

With early run support tucked into Sale’s pocket, the left-hander gave it all back and then some, surrendering a Jordan Luplow grand slam in a five-run first inning. Sale watched from the clubhouse as the Red Sox rallied for a convincing 14-6 victory over the Rays on Friday night, evening the best-of-five series at one win apiece.

“Hey, man, we count on this guy,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “He is going to be a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish. We’ll get him right.”

Yandy Díaz also had a run-scoring hit off Sale, who tossed 30 pitches (20 for strikes). ’s excellent five-inning relief outing restored order as Boston slugged back. Kiké Hernandez’s fifth-inning homer tied the game and took Sale off the hook for a losing decision.

“It was definitely a little deflating at first,” Boston outfielder said. “But I just remember going into the dugout and A.C. is coming up and down the dugout, just [saying], ‘It’s all right, we’ve got a whole game, eight more innings.’ You know, keep going. I felt like that really set the tone.”

Sale has struggled with his changeup since returning from the injured list on Aug. 14, continuing to try to find his form after Tommy John surgery. As such, Sale has leaned heavily upon his four-seam fastball and slider, but the Rays were ready for both.

“You’re facing one of the game’s best left-handers of our decade here in Sale,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

Tampa Bay saw 16 sliders, 13 fastballs and one changeup from Sale, who generated only three swings and misses -- all on the slider. Sale permitted four hits, walked one and struck out two. Luplow’s grand slam came on a fastball.

“It’s a good-hitting team,” Cora said. “They took advantage of certain pitches, and they put some swings on it. Yandy goes the other way and then the grand slam on the fastball that was above the strike zone. Sometimes, teams game-plan on people and they do a good job with it. That 0-2 pitch was above the zone, and [Luplow] got to it.”

Sale hadn’t allowed a grand slam since Sept. 18, 2015, when he was pitching for the White Sox and surrendered one to Carlos Santana in a 12-1 loss at Cleveland. Luplow’s slam marked the first time Sale has allowed a postseason homer with any runners on base.

The one-inning outing is tied for the shortest start of Sale’s career, matching an outing against the Blue Jays on Sept. 11, 2018, when he was being eased back from the injured list.

With ’s abbreviated effort in Game 1, Boston is the first team in postseason history to have its starters go fewer than two innings in each of the first two games of a postseason series.

“It’s not perfect,” Cora said. “I mean, the plan was for Chris and Eddie to go deep in the game and then mix and match, but what Nick [Pivetta] did [in Game 1] and Tanner did today, we expect that from them. We know we can actually pitch with them; we can get people out, too. So it feels great. Now we know that at least we’ll play two games in Boston.”