What Alex Cora Thought Of Chris Sale’s Performance In Game 1 Loss

Sale allowed one run on five hits in 2 2/3 innings in Boston's 5-4 defeat

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It was both an underwhelming performance, but yet a step in the right direction for Boston Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale, who started Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros — an eventual 5-4 defeat.

Sale did not make it through the third inning for the third consecutive time. He did, however, allow just one run on five hits with one walk in 2 2/3 innings. Given the fact Sale allowed five runs in his previous one-inning performance in the AL Division Series, manager Alex Cora thought it was a positive to see how the left-hander competed.

It would be unfair not to note how Sale benefitted from Boston’s defense early on, though. Kiké Hernández saved at least two runs with a two-out web gem in center field to end the second inning. Sale stranded one runner at second base in the first inning, as well.

“We were close (to taking him out with bases loaded), but you know the matchups kind of favored us and he found another gear,” Cora said after the game, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “Something that obviously he wants more, right? He wants to go deeper into the game, where we were with bullpen and with the matchups that we had, we felt like that was the right time to take him out.

“I do believe he threw the ball a lot better.  So he’ll be ready for his next one,” Cora added. “And like I said, this guy, we count on him. And I think he made some good strides today.”

Sale seemed to lack command with his slider, usually one of the devastating pitches in his pitch mix. On Friday, however, he threw 20 sliders with 10 of them going for strikes (six of eight were balls in the first inning). And his changeup, that had been lacking during his recent struggles, didn’t get much play either. He threw it just four times in his outing, as he faced 16 Astros batters.

Sale relied heavily on his four-seam fastball and slider while throwing 37 of his 61 pitches for strikes with two strikeouts.

“Of course we want our starters to go deeper in the game, but we felt like today we were very close to pull this off, right?,” Cora said.

The Red Sox will turn the ball over to Nathan Eovaldi for Game 2 in Houston on Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 4:20 p.m. ET, and you can watch pregame coverage on NESN starting at 3 p.m.

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