Chris Sale Ties Career-High K’s, Gets No-Decision

After getting off to a decidedly un-Sale-like start last night, Chris Sale matched his career-high 15 strikeouts. For the second straight game, he had double-digit K’s, returning to the monster form fans loved last season. He pitched nine full innings on Friday, allowing just 6 hits, 3 runs, and zero walks. But at the end of the night, he finished the game with a no-decision, thanks to his lineup and bullpen.

Per Red Sox Stats, in 27% of his starts with the Sox Sale has gone 7+ innings and allowed 3 or fewer runs while taking a loss or no decision. He also became the third pitcher in Red Sox history to have a 15 K game without allowing a walk, joining Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens. But despite his 2.17 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 58 innings this season, Sale has just three wins. Don’t blame him for that, though.

For what feels like the millionth time this week, a starting pitcher was screwed by the bullpen. On Thursday night, it was Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, and Joe Kelly, who blew Eduardo Rodriguez’s 4-0 lead and almost cost them the game, if not for a homer by JD Martinez in the 8th. Last night, it was again Matt Barnes, followed by Carson Smith and Brian Johnson. Unfortunately for Sale, this time, there would be no Hail Mary homer.

Kelly and Smith have been the only two relievers who’ve had any success in late innings. Matt Barnes has walked batters in three consecutive games, including walking the leadoff man he faced on Thursday and Friday night. Carson Smith came in next and held the Blue Jays down through the 11th.

But the Red Sox lineup wasn’t exactly on fire last night, either. By the time the game went into extra innings, they’d been no-hit since the 4th. Despite putting men on in extra innings, the Sox lineup never scored again. By the time Brian Johnson took over for Smith in the 12th, the game had been tied for hours. Johnson walked the first batter on four pitches and then gave up a 2-run homer to Luke Maile, the backup catcher who’d also hit the tying homer off Chris Sale in the 7th. It was Maile’s first home run of the season and his first-ever multi-homer game.

It’s becoming horrifying apparent that this team’s biggest problem is its bullpen. Despite the talk about Tyler Thornburg and Stephen Wright coming off the DL soon, fans should be nervous. None of the other pitchers come close to Sale in terms of longevity or prowess, and they need to be able to rely on the pen. I’d be shocked if Dombrowski doesn’t make a move to sign a reliever before the trade deadline.

Thankfully, the Yankees also fell to Oakland last night, so the two teams remain tied for first. But if Cora can’t figure out his bullpen soon, it won’t matter. He might as well save Sale’s arm for next season; Sale can’t save us all by himself.

Photo: Chicago Tribune

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