Chris Sale overwhelmed by high-powered Astros offense in ALDS Game 1
Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but an MLB starting pitcher had a rough outing in the postseason.
It wasn’t just any starting pitcher, however. It was the mighty Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox ace and possible AL Cy Young winner, who watched as the Houston Astros jumped out to an early lead Thursday in Game 1 of the American League Division Series at Minute Maid Park after back-to-back homers by Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve.
It was a sign of things to come, as the Astros would pummel the Red Sox 8-2 in the first game of the series. Sale, in his first postseason start, gave up seven runs on nine hits in five innings. It wasn’t exactly what people figured they’d see from the Red Sox’ Cy Young candidate, who had a 2.90 ERA in the 2017 regular season.
It’s somewhat surprising to see Sale give up two homers in an inning, considering his pedigree on the mound. While he gave up four homers in his final start of the season, he’s often quite stingy with the dingers. In the entire month of April, Sale gave up one homer in all his starts. In July, he gave up two. In June, three. The Astros, however, hit the second most homers in MLB this season
The first-inning fireworks are quite a trend right now. This was the third postseason game and teams scored a combined 11 runs on six homers in the first inning. So if there’s something to learn here, baseball fans, it’s don’t miss the first inning.
Sale’s troubles went beyond the first inning, though, as did Altuve’s power. Altuve hit three homers in the game, a historic postseason performance for the Astros star. Two of those dingers came against Sale, who looked either overmatched by the Astros’ offense (which ranked No. 2 in MLB) or the moment. Or both.
Tonight marked Chris Sale's 181st career start. It's the 2nd time he's allowed 6 extra-base hits (July 8, 2016 vs Braves). pic.twitter.com/Q4CuBMIGKh
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 5, 2017
Sale’s thoughts after the game? He told reporters, including Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald:
“This one’s on me … it’s a bad time to suck.”
It’s not ideal, that’s for sure. And Sale’s struggles might have exposed a bigger problem for the Red Sox. If the Astros get ahead early — which they have the offense to do — the Red Sox will be hard-pressed to come back. They don’t hit a lot of homers. They don’t score runs in bunches the same way the Astros do.
To win this series, the Red Sox need to get ahead early and let their pitching control things. Chris Sale couldn’t do that in Game 1. We’ll see if Drew Pomeranz will have better luck in Game 2.
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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz