What Alex Cora Has Seen From Chris Sale During Recent Struggles

Sale was lifted after he allowed five runs in the first inning Friday

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Boston Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale put together another underwhelming performance Friday night as he lasted just one inning against the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 2 of the American League Division Series.

Sale needed 30 pitches to get through the first inning and he allowed five runs, including a grand slam to Rays first baseman Jordan Luplow. It prompted a quick hook from manager Alex Cora as Sale turned it over to Tanner Houck out of the bullpen.

Sale’s one-inning start was the shortest of his career. It’s also a bit tougher to watch given the fact he was coming off a two-inning outing in Boston’s regular-season finale against the Washington Nationals. That, too, was a bit disappointing.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora offered his initial reactions of Sale following Boston’s 14-6 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field on Friday.

“I think command, that?s it,” Cora said, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “(Randy) Arozarena hunts a first pitch then (Wander) Franco stays inside. (Sale) gets the strikeout, he walked Nelson (Cruz).

“Just a good hitting team, took advantage of certain pitches and they put some good swings on it,” Cora added. “Sometimes teams game plan on other people and they do a good job with it. That 0-2 pitch (to Luplow) was above the zone, and he got to it.”

Sale’s final stat line was five runs on four hits with one walk and two strikeouts.

Cora said he doesn’t think it’s anything physical that Sale is dealing with. The manager also is not going to get away from the left-hander who was largely productive during his nine regular-season starts after returning from Tommy John surgery.

“Hey man, we count on this guy. He’s a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish,” Cora said. “We’ll get him right. We’ll get him right.”

Fortunately, the Red Sox still were able to put together a comeback win after Sale’s troubling start. It helped that Houck went five innings in relief and the Red Sox offense scored 14 runs on 20 hits.

The best-of-five series now heads back to Boston with the Red Sox and Rays tied 1-1. Game 3 is set for Sunday at 4:07 p.m. ET from Fenway Park, but you can watch an hour of pregame before first pitch on NESN.

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