The moment Boston Red Sox fans have been waiting for finally came Monday.
OK, it’s just spring training, but left-handed ace Chris Sale made his first appearance in a Red Sox uniform, starting Boston’s exhibition contest against the Houston Astros at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
Sale’s outing was brief — he threw just 37 pitches over two complete innings — but it nonetheless gave the Red Sox and their fans a first glimpse into what to expect from the five-time All-Star.
So, how did he do? Let’s break down the lanky lefty’s spring training debut.
Final Line: 2.0 innings, 4 hits, 2 runs (1 earned), 0 walks, 2 strikeouts; 37 pitches (29 strikes)
1st inning: 1 hit, 1 error, 1 run (unearned)
Sale showcased his trademark velocity on his very first pitch, hitting 96 mph on the radar gun. George Springer hit a pop-up on Sale’s second pitch that Red Sox first baseman Sam Travis couldn’t handle, resulting in an error.
Marwin Gonzalez laced a double down the third base line one pitch later to put runners on second and third with nobody out. Sale retired Alex Bregman on a pop-up to first, but Evan Gattis hit a sacrifice fly on a hard line drive to center one batter later. Sale retired Josh Reddick on a grounder to second to end the inning.
2nd inning: 3 hits, 1 run, 2 strikeouts
Sale ran into more trouble in the second, allowing a bloop single to Tyler White to start the frame. He retired Brian McCann on a flyout to center and struck out Jake Marisnick swinging on a slider but struggled to get the third out. Tony Kemp blooped a single to center field, and Springer followed with an RBI single through the shortstop hole to score White from first.
Sale froze Gonzalez with a slider to end the inning and did display solid command, throwing 13 of his 16 pitches in the frame for strikes. His three hits allowed also came on relatively soft contact.
It wasn’t exactly a stellar debut for Sale, who allowed five of the 11 batters he faced to reach base while giving up a run in each inning. But box scores don’t mean much for pitchers in spring training games, and the 27-year-old showed plenty of positive signs.
Sale boasted strong velocity on his fastball, repeatedly clocking in the mid-to-upper 90s and topping out at 97 mph. His off-speed pitches also looked sharp; both of his strikeouts came on sliders with considerable movement.
He also showed strong control, taking just one batter to a three-ball count. Indeed, much of the contact Sale allowed came early in counts, as the Astros (rightfully) took an aggressive approach against a pitcher feeling things out in his first spring training outing.
Sale likely won’t be too happy with Monday’s outing, but there’s good news: It doesn’t count, and he has the chance to do it again five days from now.
Thumbnail photo via Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Images