Chris Sale (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)
Chris Sale walked out of the Red Sox’ clubhouse at 10:45 p.m. Wednesday. That was his official entrance into what was the best example of why he is so important.
This is why you need an ace, and Sale fits the bill perfectly.
For context, let’s remember what former Miami general manager Dan Jennings once told WEEI.com when asking about the importance of an ace.
“They affect three games,” Jennings said. “Obviously the day they pitch. They affect the day before they pitch because the manager can empty the bullpen. And then the day after they pitch your bullpen should be fresh if they get you into the seventh or eighth inning, which is what you want an ace to do. I think you affect three days in a rotation, truly, if you are that guy. There are just so few of them out there. There’s a lot of guys who think they are and want to be paid like they are, but show me the production.”
Hence, the proclamation of Sale’s importance.
The Red Sox are down their eighth inning guy due to Matt Barnes’ suspension. One of the relievers who would be counted on in a late-inning role, Joe Kelly, might have limited availability due to his 1 1/3-inning, 22 pitch outing Wednesday night. Also, their lead lefty, Robby Scott, threw a season-high 21 pitches in the loss to New York.
Then there is the actual game Sale is to pitch, Thursday night at Fenway Park against the Yankees.
The Red Sox really could use this win. Not only have they lost three of their last four to the teams in front of them in the American League East (Baltimore, New York), but find themselves in the kind of offensive slump that promises to make things uncomfortable in the upcoming stretch against the Cubs and Orioles. They are just 5-for-42 (.119) with runners in scoring position over the last six games.
Fortunately for John Farrell’s team, there is literally nobody in baseball who is better suited to get the Red Sox a win Thursday night than Sale.
Sure, the lefty is the kind of role any pitcher would dream of. He has allowed three runs over 29 2/3 innings (0.91 ERA), striking out 42 and walking six. Sale is also coming off the best of the bunch in his historic 80-strike, eight-inning outing in Toronto.
But it is the team which he is facing that ties it all together.
No pitcher with more than four starts against the Yankees has ever had a lower ERA against New York than Sale, who has allowed just seven earned runs in 53 2/3 innings (1.17 ERA).
Sale’s most recent start against the Yankees came last May 13, when he allowed one run over nine innings, striking out six and not walking a batter.
“He’s been amazing,” said Red Sox outfielder Chris Young, who faced Sale as a member of the Yankees, and is 1-for-11 against the starter for his career. “It’s been fun to watch simply just as a fan of the game. I’ve had the opportunity to face him a few times and haven’t had much success off of him. You know what he’s bringing to the table every game. He’s just a bulldog on the game, and is a pleasure to watch.”