The stage is set for Chris Sale's time to shine

Rob Bradford
May 03, 2019 - 6:38 am

Losses like Thursday night in Chicago will happen.

You have a game seemingly in hand -- as was the case with the Red Sox visit to the White Sox' home -- and all of a sudden there's a key error, opposite-field single, a foul ball that just barely makes the stands and finally walk-off three-run homer. Thanks to Rafael Devers' miscue and a few poorly placed pitches by Ryan Brasier that's what took place on a miserable night to play baseball. (For a complete recap, click here.)

When you're trying to dig out from what is now a 14-18 record it might sting a little bit more.

Watched this no fewer than 90 times and have no idea what happened, the ball is in the webbing ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

— Red Sox Stats (@redsoxstats) May 3, 2019

.@Nicky_Delmonico called game!

— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) May 3, 2019

What it does is set up for what should be a meaningful moment. Chris Sale is understandably in the spotlight.

It would have been a thing even without the current circumstances, with Sale returning to the park he called home for seven seasons. There has been one other occasion similar to this since the lefty joined the Red Sox, pitching in Chicago in a uniform other than the White Sox. That ultimately was a dud the ace, giving up six runs on 10 hits over five innings in a Red Sox' 13-7 win on May 30, 2017.

At that time the Red Sox were four games over .500, sitting in second place in the American League East.

Sale was also in a different place, pitching with a fastball averaging about 95 mph, totaling 5-2 with a 2.34 ERA through 10 starts.

This is different.

Heading into his seventh start Sale has a 6.30 ERA while not winning any of his five decisions. The feel-good presence that has come with the lefty taking the mound has yet to take root this season, with his newly-signed five-year, $145 million extension not making things any more comfortable.

Sale has had just one outing in which his fastball has averaged better than 92.8 mph, throwing his slider more than ever. In that previous visit against his old team in his old ballpark he threw the slider just 22 percent of the time, which was less than half of what he has offered it in his last three starts.

But the good news for Sale and the Red Sox is that all signs point to the southpaw having his health, with the crutch of it still being relatively early in the season.

It wasn't as if Sale's fastball was cranking on all cylinders in his seventh start a year ago, averaging 93.5 mph. But that start resulted in a seven-inning gem against the Royals, and it would be the last time before the lefty's heater averaged under 95 mph up until his shoulder ailment.

So heading into Friday night panic should be shelved for at least a little while longer. 

The team is playing better and its ace is getting a prime chance to surface some optimism on his end.

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