Chris Sale stumbled out of the gate to begin the 2019 season, but it’s been smooth sailing ever since for the Boston Red Sox ace, who signed a lucrative contract extension this spring.
So, what happened?
Well, it’s hard to say, other than Sale’s velocity has improved and he’s back to striking out batters at an impressive clip. But Red Sox manager Alex Cora has an idea as to when things started to click.
Cora on Monday mentioned an outing against the Detroit Tigers, although Sale’s start against the Tampa Bay Rays on April 28 more accurately fits the skipper’s description: Sale surrendered four runs (two earned) over his first two innings against Tampa Bay but settled down nicely and lasted into the seventh, where he retired the side in order to finish his effort on a positive note.
The Red Sox lost that game 5-2, dropping Boston’s record to 11-17 and Sale’s record to 0-5. But the seven-time All-Star has been excellent in his four most recent starts, demonstrating why he’s long been one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball.
Here’s more from Cora’s appearance Monday on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM:
Sale’s record now sits at just 1-5, but he’s lowered his ERA to 4.31 through 10 starts. He’s also struck out 10 or more in five of his last six outings, including a career-high 17 whiffs over seven innings against the Colorado Rockies last week.
The Red Sox collectively have improved, too, after some early-season struggles threatened to put a damper on their World Series title defense. One can’t help but wonder whether the slow start — both for Sale and the team — ultimately will look laughable in hindsight.