Boston Red Sox starter Chris Sale admitted he was “absolutely horrible” during each of his previous two starts, before getting the ball for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Friday against the Houston Astros.
Sale needed 30 pitches to get through the first inning in his Game 2 start in the AL Division Series against the Tampa Bay. Rays. He was pulled after allowing five first-inning runs including a grand slam. And that was after he didn’t make it through three innings when pitching the regular-season finale against the Washington Nationals.
All told, it made Alex Cora’s decision to go with Sale for Game 1 against the Astros somewhat surprising, as most assumed right-hander Nathan Eovaldi would earn the start on regular rest, given his postseason success.
But that’s not to be confused with a lack of confidence in Sale. Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts noted the team has full trust in him entering Friday, and even stuck up for the southpaw in regards to his recent starts.
“We obviously always have trust with him — before Tommy John and after Tommy John,” Bogaerts said before first pitch Friday, as shared by the team. “Sometimes I feel likes it’s a little unfair for us to expect him to go out there and throw nine shutout innings after going through 12 or more months without pitching a baseball. And coming in in a pennant race and being in the playoffs, he’s had to deal with a lot, to be honest with you.
“And sometimes the expectations might be a little unfair for him, but if there’s one guy that can overcome all that stuff, he’s been an ace throughout his whole career, one of the best pitchers on any team he’s been on throughout his whole career,” Bogaerts continued. “So if there’s one guy who can do it it’s him. Obviously, we have a lot of confidence in him throwing that first game.”
Eovaldi, who may have helped Sale with a performance-enhancing mechanics tweak, will get take the mound for Game 2 in Houston on Saturday.
Game 1 is scheduled for 8:07 p.m. ET, and you can watch pregame coverage on NESN starting at. 7 p.m.