Boston Red Sox lefty and likely AL Cy Young Award winner Chris Sale has not looked himself as of late, but there is no reason for his team or Red Sox fans to panic. Sale has taken the loss in each of his last two starts and last night looked like anything but an ace arm, and that’s ok.
In Boston’s 13-6 loss to the Cleveland Indians, Sale gave up seven runs (six earned) on seven hits. He had three walks to go with three strikeouts and lasted only three innings. It was his shortest outing of the season and the first time this year he has lost consecutive starts.
In spite of all that, Sale will be just fine.
Sale’s dream season
The first thing to remember is that even though Sale has had two rough starts in a row, he’s still having a phenomenal 2017. He is 14-6 and his 2.88 ERA ranks second in the American League. His WHIP is an astounding 0.93 and his 253 strikeouts lead the Majors.
Not only is he the front-runner for the AL Cy Young, but he could also be in the running for MVP. Winning both would make him the first pitcher to do so since Justin Verlander in 2011. Sale would also become the 11th player in baseball history to snag both awards in the same season, joining the likes of Hall-of-Famers Bob Gibson and Dennis Eckersley, among others.
It’s also worth noting that for all of Sale’s successes this year, he was due to have at least one rough stretch. The man is still only human in spite of what he can do on the baseball field and should be treated accordingly.
With Boston in the thick of a race with the New York Yankees for the AL East crown that Sale has yet to land an official win against the Yankees and has two losses with a 5.82 ERA in his last three starts is a legitimate concern.
And though concerns over Sale’s struggles at this point in the season can be justified, hitting the panic button right now would be the wrong idea. Only if he struggles in his next scheduled start, against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre on Tuesday, should alarm bells ring.
Solution to struggles
In the here and now, however, Sale should not be handled with kid gloves. We’re at the part of the season where everyone is looking a little fatigued, what with the dog days of August winding down ahead of roster expansions on September 1. Given that Sale has thrown 178.1 innings already this year and tossed 435.1 frames in his last two campaigns with the Chicago White Sox, he’s allowed to have a tired arm.
It’s also worth noting that even after last night’s short outing, Sale still leads the Majors in innings pitched.
That said, if the Red Sox are that concerned with Sale’s performance in his last two starts, perhaps skipping his next turn in the rotation would be a good idea. It would preserve his strength for the postseason and also provide him with a well-earned break. If not that, maybe just an extra day of rest will do.
Either way, worrying about Sale and automatically assuming he’s about to crash is impractical. He’s just having a small cold streak like many top pitchers before him. He’s one of the best arms in the game today and will find a way back on track.
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