Amid what has been a very trying season for Chris Sale, the left-hander has mixed in some gems along the way that have left fans saying, “maybe this is the one.”
To this point, the roller coaster ride has sustained. Sale put up his worst performance in a Boston Red Sox uniform in his last start against the New York Yankees.
But there is reason to believe that perhaps, finally, Sale has found what has been missing. Sale dazzled on Thursday night against the Los Angeles Angels, chucking eight shutout innings while striking out 13 in a 3-0 win at Fenway Park.
It comes just days after Alex Cora noted that the Red Sox found a mechanical fix in Sale’s delivery. And after Thursday’s performance, Sale noted the changes he made between starts working with assistant pitching coach Brian Bannister.
“Just getting back to what I was doing to make myself successful before all this,” Sale told reporters, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “Spent a lot of time this week looking at some things. (Bannister) kind of broke it down for me (Wednesday), zones and tunnels, where all my damage is coming from. And kind of getting back to doing some things with my arm path that help my pitches and get some extension.”
It’s been an incredibly long season of trial and error for the Red Sox ace, who has run through a gauntlet of issues from velocity, control and bite on his slider. But Thursday undoubtedly was one of Sale’s best complete performances of the season, needing just 99 pitches and dotting 97 and 98 mph into the seventh and eighth inning. In fact, he threw his hardest pitch of the night in the seventh.
“Anytime you get results its satisfying. You see what you have been doing that has made you unsuccessful and you look at what has made you successful and you kind of trash one and pick up the other. And just the way it felt, the way it all felt. The visual, obviously, satisfaction, what I saw, what they were showing me, and then to be able to go and do it. You just try to build off of that and keep going. You never want to say you figured it out, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
The Red Sox have an uphill climb ahead of them to make the postseason, and if they are going to earn a postseason bid, this is the Sale that has to show up more often than not.
Here are some other notes on Thursday’s Red Sox-Angels game:
— Sale recorded his 200th strikeout of the season for the seventh consecutive year, putting him in pretty rare territory.
— Brandon Workman recorded his seventh save of the season, tying him for the team-lead.
Boston now is 23-of-43 on save opportunities this season, while Workman has converted on each of his last five saves.
— Rafael Devers’ rough start to August continued.
The third baseman, who has been the linchpin of Boston’s lineup all season, was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. He is 0-for his last eight with five strikeouts and is batting just .152 so far this month with nine strikeouts and just one walk.
— J.D. Martinez, however, continues to heat it up at the dish.
The DH was 2-for-3, giving him five straight games with multiple hits. He is 9-for-24 in August with a .375/.500/.667 slash line and six walks. He now is batting .304 on the season.
— Angels batters struck out 15 times on Thursday night.
Mike Trout struck out three times, twice by Sale and again at the hand of Brandon Workman to end the game. Leadoff hitter David Fletcher was the only Angel to not be retired by the K.
— After spending what seemed like all night at the ballpark Wednesday, Thursday night was wrapped up in a crisp two hours and 16 minutes, the quickest Red Sox game of the season.