A caveat should be noted that while Chris Sale pitched well Thursday afternoon, it was against a somewhat dreadful Toronto Blue Jays squad that now has a 36-62 record.
However, the Jays, for some reason, have torched Sale recently. That, coupled with the southpaw struggling plenty of times this season, should make his performance in the 5-0 win over the Blue Jays all the more encouraging for the Red Sox,
Sale tossed six scoreless innings, striking out 12 and walking two, allowing just a pair of hits. It was Sale’s first win at Fenway Park since July 11 of last year.
So what was the difference? In Sale’s eyes, it was that his command was sharp and his changeup was working.
“I just think it was, overall, command,” Sale said, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “I had a lot better feel for my changeup today, that’s something I really haven’t had all year. I think I was actually able to use my changeup as an out pitch instead of more just a show pitch. Obviously this game is a little bit, not easier, but easier if you have more pitches that you can throw at them.
“I think that’s the key,” Sale later added. “Throughout most of the year it’s just been fastball, slider, and my fastball command hasn’t been there, so today was big for me on a command standpoint. And also being able to throw my changeup late in the count — I was able to throw it late in the count — and use it as an out pitch (helps).
While Sale’s 4-9 record isn’t necessarily indicative of performance since he’s been hosed by the offense and bullpen on more than a few occasions, the Sox nevertheless have needed him to be better. Thursday’s showing was a step in the right direction.
Here are some other notes from Thursday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays game:
— Rafael Devers has given the Blue Jays fits this season, and that didn’t change Thursday.
With two on and one out in the fifth, the young third baseman launched a 417-foot blast into the Red Sox bullpen, good for his 19th homer of the season. The dinger was the 28th RBI of the year against the Blue Jays for Devers, a figure which hasn’t been reached by any player against any team in the big leagues in north of a decade.
Devers has an opportunity to pass Sheffield since the Red Sox still have three games remaining against Toronto this season.
— Mookie Betts was the other Sox hitter to homer, smacking his 14th of the campaign in the seventh inning, a solo shot off Derek Law.
Betts is in the midst of a 10-game hit streak and has scored a run in each of his last 13 contests. That runs scored stretch has him bumping elbows with Red Sox legend Ted Williams in Boston’s history books.
— Nathan Eovaldi made a rehab appearance Thursday morning, pitching one inning with the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox.
The hard-throwing right-hander looked good, with all three of his outs coming by way of a strikeout. He walked one batter, who ultimately made it to third due to a passed ball and balk. However, Eovaldi worked out of the jam without issue.
Cora said after the game that Eovaldi will travel to the team with Baltimore, and how he feels Friday will determine when/if he gets activated, but that it very well could be this weekend.
— Darwinzon Hernandez handled the ninth inning and was sharp. The southpaw struck out the first two batters before getting Justin Smoak to ground out to end the game.
Hernandez has been interesting to watch this season in the big leagues. Though he wasn’t great as a starter, he’s pitched well in three relief appearances — an interesting development given the tumult currently in the Red Sox bullpen.
It’s worth noting that Cora indicated using Hernandez in the ninth wasn’t with some sort of ulterior motive in mind, rather they just thought the matchups were good.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images