Chris Sale made the longest start of his 2021 postseason Wednesday in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros. But he was credited with the loss as Boston dropped the game 9-1.
He reacted accordingly — acknowledging the good and the bad about the outing.
“I had to leave everything out there,” Sale told reporters after the loss, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “I told myself coming into this game I had a job to do. Obviously didn’t get it done, but I left my (expletive) out there on that mound tonight, that’s for damn sure.”
After he was rocked for a solo home run in the second inning, Sale recovered and was steady through the next three innings. It was in the sixth inning that he ran into some trouble, with a lead off walk to José Altuve before Michael Brantley reached on a catching error by Kyle Schwarber. Yordan Alvarez, who was everywhere offensively, rocked a two-run double to make it 3-0, prompting Sale’s exit.
He finished with two earned runs on three hits, striking out seven and walking two over 5 1/3 innings. While it doesn’t look great on paper, Sale was giving the Red Sox something to work with for most of his outing. You can’t win games without offense, an area where the team struggled deeply Wednesday.
At the end of the day, Sale threw 55 of 87 pitches for strikes. According to data from Baseball Savant, 19 of his 28 sliders went for swings or called strikes, and he got strikes on 29 of 47 fastballs.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora elected to acknowledge the good in Sale’s start. After all, consider that Sale entered off of a pair of weak starts, lasting one inning (AL Division Series Game 1) and 2 2/3 innings (ALCS Game 1).
“Overall, for everything that has been going on the last month … he stepped up,” Cora said. “We didn’t get enough outs as a group and they scored nine. Very proud of him. He threw the ball.”
Catcher Christian Vázquez went so far as to say this was the best he has since Sale pitch since 2019, before he was forced away from the game due to Tommy John surgery.
“I think his fastball was electric,” Vázquez said postgame. “That strikeout with (Kyle) Tucker, he showed everybody that he’s still got the fastball. 97, 98 with that angle. It was (an) electric fastball. A lot of swing and miss today with the slider, so that’s a good sign.”
That strikeout Vázquez is referring to elicited a pretty awesome reaction from Sale. So even if he’s disappointed now, it’s easy to see that he recognized there was some good, at least in that moment.