It appeared Chris Sale finally had caught his break.
The Boston Red Sox ace held the Toronto Blue Jays scoreless over eight innings but (again) didn’t have any run support to show for it. In the top of the ninth, though, Xander Bogaerts slapped an RBI single to put Boston in front and set up Sale, who had thrown just 102 pitches, to earn a complete-game shutout win.
Except it didn’t turn out that way. Red Sox manager John Farrell went to his closer, Craig Kimbrel, who gave up a game-tying home run to Kendrys Morales on his second pitch to leave Sale with a no-decision.
Mookie Betts’ heroics helped the Red Sox rally for a 4-1 win, but Farrell’s move still was a head-scratcher, considering Sale’s 102 pitches were a season-low and that he was downright unhittable through eight frames.
In short: Farrell had some explaining to do.
“It was a tough decision, but one where, we take the lead, we’ve got Craig Kimbrel, who’s thrown the baseball extremely well,” Farrell said after the game, via WEEI.com. “He’s been dominant in his own right. He’s well-rested.
“After kind of a long inning after we get a challenge review, we score that run late in the inning, felt it was time to turn it over to a guy that was fresh and powerful. Unfortunately, the second pitch goes out of the ballpark.”
Kimbrel indeed had been on an impressive run entering Thursday. But it’s hard to imagine Sale — who sports a 0.91 ERA through four starts but only has one win to show for it — was pleased about being pulled from his best start of the season. Still, the Red Sox ace took the diplomatic approach when asked about his quick trigger.
“I’m going to want the ball in that situation 10 times out of nine,” Sale told reporters, as aired on NESN. “It is what it is. Do I want to? Yeah. But at the end of the day, he’s the manager and makes the calls. Check the book. Craig’s been pretty damn good back there.”
Let’s hit a few other notes out of Thursday’s game.
— Betts played the role of hero with a three-RBI double in the 10th inning, but he also struck out twice. Why is this noteworthy? Because Betts had snapped a streak of 129 consecutive plate appearances without a punch-out Wednesday night — the longest such streak in over a decade — but now has three Ks in his last six at-bats.
Betts hadn’t struck out twice in a game since Sept. 3, 2016, before Thursday.
— David Price experienced a bit of a diversion in his rehab Thursday, doing long toss in the outfield instead of throwing live batting practice to batters, as the team had hoped. Farrell said Tuesday that arm soreness wasn’t an issue for the Red Sox left-hander but changed his tune Thursday.
“You get a little soreness coming out of the intensity in which he was throwing the ball,” Farrell said before the game, via the Boston Herald. “We gave it a couple of extra days before we extended back out into some long toss. He had a good work day here (Wednesday) with some pretty aggressive flatground work.”
— Hanley Ramirez hasn’t taken a rep in the field this season, with Mitch Moreland starting all 16 contests to date at first base. But Farrell hasn’t ruled out giving Ramirez some reps at first base in the near future.
“He and I have had many conversations about this,” Farrell said before the game, via MassLive.com. “We know that we have Interleague play coming up relatively soon in National League ballparks. He’s aware of that. I’m not throwing the towel in on him playing first base. At the same time, we’ve been able to be pretty darn productive with Mitch going every day.”
Boston’s initial plan going into the season was to play Ramirez at first base against left-handed starters and designated hitter against right-handed starters.
Thumbnail photo via Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports Images