There’s no denying the Chris Sale we saw Tuesday afternoon at Fenway Park was closer to the Chris Sale that Boston Red Sox fans know and love.
But did the left-hander look like he had completely regained his ace-like form? Not even close.
Sale gave up two runs on five hits and two walks over five innings in the Red Sox’s 7-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers. He struck out a season-high 10 batters and took a no-decision in Game 1 of the two teams’ day-night doubleheader.
The good: Sale’s fastball regularly sat between 93 and 96 mph and his overall stuff was the most electric it’s been all season.
The bad: He needed 97 pitches to get through five innings against a bad offense. He also struggled with command at times, leading to multiple hard-hit balls.
Sale, as you might expect, was hard on himself after the game.
“Step in the right direction, but I need to extend these outings a little bit,” a visibly frustrated Sale said, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. ” … Step in the right direction. Not where we want to be, but better.
” … Too many fouled balls, too many deep counts, walked too many guys. I need to clean some things up around the edges. We’ll get there.”
Red Sox manager Alex Cora, on the other hand, was encouraged by Sale’s latest effort.
“I felt that he was better than (his last start), as far as command. The change-up was OK,” Cora said. “Besides that, he got swings and misses today, so that was a good step.”
If you’re among those who saw Sale’s first couple starts and were worried his days as a top-of-the-rotation starter were over, Tuesday’s outing has to be encouraging. His fastball had life, his slider had bite and he pitched with the pace and intensity that Red Sox fans are used to seeing.
But we’re talking about a guy who, when right, might be the best pitcher on planet Earth. That’s a lofty standard, to be sure, but Sale nevertheless remains far from reaching it.
Here are some other notes from Red Sox-Tigers Game 1:
— Again, the hard-hit balls are alarming:
— This stat isn’t entirely fair, but it’s still concerning:
— Colten Brewer took the loss after getting knocked around for three runs in the eighth. The right-handed reliever isn’t making a strong case for being a regular in high-leverage situations.
“We got one job to do, and that’s to get outs with the game on the line.” Brewer said after the game. “Obviously, that’s something I need to get better at. … It is early in the year, but it could definitely be better than it has been.”
— Michael Chavis went 0-for-4 with a strikeout in his Fenway Park debut.
— The Red Sox promoted top prospect Darwinzon Hernandez to be the 26th man on the roster for the nightcap. The left-handed Venezuelan is considered the top pitching prospect in the organization, with some even believing he’s Boston’s No. 1 overall prospect.
— The Red Sox also promoted reliever Travis Lakins, while left-hander Bobby Poyner was optioned back to Triple-A Pawtucket. Lakins has the stuff and command to be useful late-inning reliever.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images