BOSTON -- With a significant jam in progress in the top of the seventh inning and the Red Sox clinging to a one-run lead over the Twins, manager John Farrell took ace Chris Sale out of Monday night's game at 108 pitches.It is the type of decision that gets second-guessed
BOSTON -- With a significant jam in progress in the top of the seventh inning and the Red Sox clinging to a one-run lead over the Twins, manager John Farrell took ace Chris Sale out of Monday night's game at 108 pitches.
It is the type of decision that gets second-guessed in any market if it doesn't work.
In Boston, add about two to three levels of scrutiny. But Farrell wasn't worried about public opinion. He was trying to win a baseball game.
The decision worked like a charm, as Sale (10-3, 2.77 ERA) walked off to a standing ovation, and Richard Hembree came on and got a crucial 5-4-3 double play that helped lift the Red Sox to a 4-1 victory over the Twins.
When Hembree entered, there were two on with one out.
"I was thinking about getting out of the inning to make his night a little bit better and obviously keep us in the lead right there," said Hembree. "Yeah, I was just trying to make pitches and trying to get out of it. I was going for a punchout, but I got a double play so I'll take it."
There will be many instances like that this season when Farrell will leave his ace in to get out of his own jam.
So what made this one different? For one, Chris Gimenez had produced the only significant hit of the night against Sale to that point, roping a solo homer in the third inning.
"I gave up a ball that might have hit the freeway," Sale quipped of that drive.
Gimenez also had made solid contact on a lineout to center against Sale in the fifth and was 4-for-8 lifetime against him when Farrell made the move.
On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Hembree's 2-2 cutter got the desired result, and left Gimenez stewing.
"That's the one that's going to haunt me tonight because he got away with it. That's why hitting is so tough," Gimenez said. "He can do everything right or wrong and still get away with it. He left that one over the middle of the plate and I let him off the hook."
Hembree admitted his location was not pinpoint.
"It was probably up a little bit more than I wanted to, but it played and did its job," Hembree said.
And nobody enjoyed the escape more than Sale, who of course would have preferred to clean up his own mess.
"Never [want to come out]," said Sale. "No, but John is in a tough situation there. Do I want to finish an inning? Yeah. But do I also not want to give up a hit and walk a guy? That's on me. There are a couple things I could've done to extend my outing, but in the end, it worked out. 'Heater' picked me up there in the seventh."
Thanks to Hembree's double-play ball, Sale produced another stellar stat line, allowing four hits and a run over 6 1/3 innings, walking two and striking out nine. Sale has 155 strikeouts, 29 more than Tampa Bay's Chris Archer, who is second in the American League.
"We're talking about an elite guy in the Major Leagues. It's a treat for us to see him pitch every fifth or sixth day," said Farrell.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.