The Boston Red Sox celebrated their home opener with the help of a few champions on Tuesday. Rob Gronkowski and other members of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots also showed up for the event.
Pre-game ceremonies were exciting as expected. The Red Sox got their rings, unveiled their World Series banner, received a visit from David Ortiz and then saw Gronk and the Pats — who made sure to bring their own trophy.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) April 9, 2019
That excitement didn’t last too long, however, after Red Sox ace Chris Sale turned in another concerning start. The 30-year-old Sale allowed five runs on seven hits over just four innings of work.
While Sale was able to show some solid fastball velocity early, he didn’t maintain it during the contest. Things started to fall apart in the third inning, when Sale gave up three-straight singles and a sacrifice fly to tie the game 2-2.
The fourth was even worse. Sale started things off by giving up two more singles. A passed ball moved a runner to third and then Sale allowed yet another single, giving the Blue Jays a 3-2 lead.
A sacrifice bunt and a strikeout gave Sale an opportunity to get out of the inning without giving up any additional runs. That didn’t happen.
Another passed ball allowed Danny Jansen to score from third. At that point, Sale briefly lost focus, allowing Lourdes Gurriel to take a huge lead at third and steal home.
Sale was able to induce a groundout to get out of the inning, but the damage was already done. The Blue Jays led 5-2 following the disastrous inning.
It’s yet another discouraging start from the man who closed out the 2018 World Series. Through three starts this season, Sale now has a 9.24 ERA.
Despite Sale’s struggles Tuesday, the Red Sox battled back, cutting the lead to one run by the sixth inning. The Blue Jays were able to hold on, winning the contest 7-5. The loss dropped the Red Sox to 3-9 on the season.
Following the contest, Sale admitted he felt lost on the mound.
Asked Sale is he’s ever felt this lost on the mound. “Never in my life,” he said.
— Sean McAdam (@Sean_McAdam) April 9, 2019
In his first start of the season, Sale allowed seven runs in just three innings of work. His second start offered more promise, as Sale allowed one run over six innings, but even that performance was cause for concern. Sale only struck out one batter during the contest, and didn’t show his usual velocity. Tuesday’s performance will do nothing to assuage those feelings.
Sale was limited to 158 innings in 2018 due to a shoulder injury. He was able to return and pitch in the playoffs, but shoulder issues are always troublesome for pitchers. While Sale has had the offseason to recover, his early struggles are more concerning due to last year’s issue.
The Red Sox have mostly written off Sale’s first two starts, saying he’s been sick or that he’s saving his stuff so he’s effective deep into the season. It’s possible that’s true and Sale will turn things around.
If that’s going to happen, Sale should flip that switch soon. It’s clear this new approach isn’t working, and with the Red Sox struggling to open up the season — particularly in the rotation — getting their ace back would be huge.
But if Sale can’t get back to that level right now, the Red Sox might want to use caution. If getting Sale back to his old self when it matters is the goal, sitting him down in April to work through things might be the best way to get Sale back on track.
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