Pedro Martinez Wonders If Chris Sale’s ALDS Relief Stint Caused Game 1 Struggles

Chris Sale was uncharacteristically wild Saturday night at Fenway Park, which begs an obvious question: Why?

The normally dominant left-hander issued four walks over four innings and threw just 50 of his 86 pitches for strikes in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, which the Boston Red Sox dropped 7-2 to the Houston Astros.

Sale clearly didn’t have the pinpoint command that makes him so effective, and after the game, former Red Sox ace-turned-TBS commentator Pedro Martinez threw out a possible explanation for his struggles.

If you’ll recall, manager Alex Cora tabbed Sale to pitch the eighth inning of Game 4 of the AL Division Series against the New York Yankees on Tuesday. The move paid off, as Sale retired the side to help Boston earn a series-clinching, 4-3 win.

Still, it was a break in routine for the 29-year-old, who hadn’t thrown out of the bullpen since the 2017 ALDS against the Astros. And while he threw just 13 pitches in Tuesday’s outing, he technically was pitching on three days’ rest Saturday night, and observers instantly recognized his velocity was down: His fastball hovered around the low 90s for most of the night.

Sale wasn’t interested in making excuses, though.

“I just lost command,” he said. “Kind of out there searching for it for a little bit. Just do the best you can to kind of corral it in and limit the damage and get out of there as quick as possible.”

Sale has said repeatedly he’ll take the ball in any scenario — he actually suggested the bullpen appearance to Cora — so we doubt he’ll point to Tuesday’s bullpen outing as affecting him. He wasn’t asked about the relief appearance after Saturday’s game, though, so unless he decides to address it later, we’ll just be speculating on what role it played Saturday, if any.

Thumbnail photo via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images

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