Chris Sale (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Chris Sale (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

TORONTO — You can start with the numbers.

In case you forgot, Pedro Martinez was really good in his first starts with the Red Sox. He pitched 32 innings three runs for an 0.84 ERA. Opponents hit .148 against him, with Martinez striking out 44 and walking seven.

Chris Sale?

After his eight innings in the Red Sox’ 4-1, 10-inning win against the Blue Jays, is sitting with an 0.91 ERA, having allowed three runs in 29 2/3 innings. He has struck out 42, walked six and allowed a .147 batting average.

But it’s more than that. It’s the image he’s portraying. Complete dominance.

In this case, it was a 102-pitch outing in which he struck out 13, and didn’t allow a run. And while he was torturing such Blue Jays hitters as Jose Bautista (4 strikeouts) and Jarrod Saltalmacchia (3 strikeouts), Sale was throwing virtually every pitch for a strike. There was 80 of them, to be exact.

It left an impression.

“It’s the best game I’ve ever caught,” said Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon. “He was throwing every pitch in every count. He likes to attack.”

As Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis explained when talking about watching Sale, “It’s different.”

You know it when you see it. You did when Pedro pitched. Willis realized it back when serving as the coach for Cliff Lee, C.C. Sabathia and Felix Hernandez, all of whom went on Cy Young runs. It’s just different. That’s how watching Sale has felt.

“The pace he works. The strikes that he throws. The confidence that he throws each pitch with, regardless of the speed,” Willis said. “I think that’s the key. He’ll show you 96 or 97 [mph], then he will reel it back at 91 or 88 and then he will change speed with the breaking ball. And it’s all with total confidence and conviction. I’ve seen guys have good runs. The way Chris does it, some of the movement he gets, and some of the swings you see him get, it’s just different.”

Yes, the Red Sox don’t score runs for Sale. They didn’t before Thursday, and they couldn’t get one before the starter exited his latest outing. The same thing happened to Martinez in his first season with the Red Sox, with his new club scoring more than three runs just twice over his first nine starts.

It’s no coincidence. These are the guys who pitch at a level where opposing pitchers know they have to be their absolute best. It’s part of the deal.

“Nobody is perfect,” Sale said. “Get after these four days and try and do the same thing next time around.”

True enough. But around these parts, this seems as close to pitching perfection as we’ve seen in some time.

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Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

TORONTO — The first sign that Chris Sale probably didn’t want to come out of the game after the eighth inning was where Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis had to find the starter.

The lunch room.

Chris Sale (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

Chris Sale (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

TORONTO — The first sign that Chris Sale probably didn’t want to come out of the game after the eighth inning was where Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis had to find the starter.

The lunch room.

Thursday afternoon’s game between the Red Sox and Blue Jays was in a scoreless tie. Sale had thrown 102 pitches (80 strikes), having struck out 13 and walked just one. So while the Red Sox went to bat in the ninth, the pitcher adjourned to the area that was about as far away from the dugout as a player can get during the game.

It wasn’t far enough away.

After the Red Sox took a 1-0 lead on Xander Bogaerts’ two-out single (which was immediately followed by a one-minute, 54-second review of a tag at second), Red Sox manager John Farrell chose to end Sale’s day and bring on closer Craig Kimbrel.

“He probably figured we were going to ask him,” joked Willis.

“I came in and literally had to go all the way down to the food room just to ask how he felt, how his legs were. He was adamant that he was good. He was ready to keep throwing. I got back in the dugout and I told John. But once we took the lead, as good as Craig has been the last few times out, it made sense,”

“I’m going to want the ball in that situation 10 times out of nine,” Sale said. “It is what it is. Do I want to? Yeah. But at the end of the day, he’s the manager and makes the calls. Check the book. Craig’s been pretty damn good back there.”

The move back-fired, with Kimbrel allowing a solo homer off the bat of Kendrys Morales on just the closer’s second pitch, an 96 mph fastball.

After the game, Farrell explained his thinking.

“It was a tough decision, but one where, we take the lead, we’ve got Craig Kimbrel, who’s thrown the baseball extremely well,” he said. “He’s been dominant in his own right. He’s well-rested. After kind of a long inning after we get a challenge review, we score that run late in the inning, felt it was time to turn it over to a guy that was fresh and powerful. Unfortunately, the second pitch goes out of the ballpark. But we’ve responded as we’ve done many different times where either the game’s been tied late or we’ve had to come from behind, and we did it again today.”

As it turned out, the manager explained the delay caused by the review of Bogaerts’ sliding into second ultimately might have been the tipping point.

“The additional time, yeah, that was part of the decision,” Farrell said.

Farrell also noted that even if the Red Sox hadn’t tied the game in the ninth, there was a strong chance Kimbrel — who hadn’t pitched since Monday — would be called upon.

“We had talked about it and actually had Kimbrel warming up in the event that … knowing that they’ve used their closer already, likely that Kimbrel’s in that game as well,” said the manager of his closer, who would go on to strike out five of the six batters he faced.

“It’s not an easy decision, but when you have a guy like Kimbrel and how he’s throwing the baseball the last few times out, that’s why he’s here,” Willis said. “It didn’t work out, but more times than not it does.”

The 102 pitches would ultimately be the lowest total of Sale’s four starts this season, with the lanky lefty totaling 104, 108 and 111 pitches, respectively, leading up to this start.

Coming into the game, Morales was 5-for-25 against Sale, and had gone 1-for-3 this time around, singling in his most recent at-bat. The switch-hitter had faced Kimbrel just one other time, getting hit by a pitch.

Fortunately for the Red Sox, Mookie Betts’ bases-loaded double with two outs in the 10th inning landed Kimbrel with the win and some solace for the team.

“I didn’t want to lose the game. I still had a job to do,” Kimbrel said. “Carl came through and told me if we scored some runs I was going back out. I want to go back out in a tie ballgame. Just that frustration. I gave up the game. I felt like it was my job to keep the game close and keep it going. Guys did a good job, great at-bats. Mookie got a big hit. It was a great ballgame.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford
Joe and Tim talk with Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts after he provided the big hit in the 10th inning driving in 3 runs as the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays 4-1. Mookie talks about playing behind a pitcher like Chris Sale, and the amount of strikeouts from Sale lightens his work in the outfield.
Joe and Tim talk with Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts after he provided the big hit in the 10th inning driving in 3 runs as the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays 4-1. Mookie talks about playing behind a pitcher like Chris Sale, and the amount of strikeouts from Sale lightens his work in the outfield.

TORONTO — Mookie Betts came up biggest when it counted the most Thursday afternoon.

The Red Sox right fielder’s double into the left field corner with two outs and the bases loaded in the 10th inning allowed for John Farrell’s team to claim a 4-1 win over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

Chris Sale (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Chris Sale (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

TORONTO — Mookie Betts came up biggest when it counted the most Thursday afternoon.

The Red Sox right fielder’s double into the left field corner with two outs and the bases loaded in the 10th inning allowed for John Farrell’s team to claim a 4-1 win over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

But, even after the game-winner, it was Chris Sale who everybody was buzzing about.

The Red Sox starter continued to offer a Pedro-esque appearance, this time needing just 102 pitches to go eight innings and not allow a single run. The lefty struck out 13, walked one and threw 80 of his pitches for strikes.

It wasn’t just a good performance. It was historic. Sale joined Nolan Ryan and Frank Tana as the only pitchers to go eight or more innings and allow no runs while striking out 13 or more and not get a win.

Through four starts, Sale’s ERA now stands at 0.91.

The only reason Sale didn’t come away with a win this time around was because of a lack of run support.

Back-to-back doubles in the ninth inning by Mitch Moreland and Xander Bogaerts gave the Sox a short-lived 1-0 lead, as Kendrys Morales’ solo homer to lead off the home half of the ninth off Craig Kimbrel tied the game at one.

The Morales shot came on Kimbrel’s second pitch of the game, a 96 mph fastball. The Red Sox closer did come back and earn the win by completing his two innings, striking out the side in the 10th.

For a complete game recap, click here.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

TORONTO — Mitch Moreland and Hanley Ramirez’s sore shoulder. Those two things have made the Red Sox adjust their initial plan when it comes to managing the first base position.

It’s looking more and more like Ramirez isn’t going to be using his first basemen’s glove as much as the Red Sox initially thought.

Hanley Ramirez is in the lineup Monday. (Jonathan Dyer/USA Today Sports)

Hanley Ramirez is in the lineup Monday. (Jonathan Dyer/USA Today Sports)

TORONTO — Mitch Moreland and Hanley Ramirez’s sore shoulder. Those two things have made the Red Sox adjust their initial plan when it comes to managing the first base position.

It’s looking more and more like Ramirez isn’t going to be using his first basemen’s glove as much as the Red Sox initially thought.

“He and I have had many conversations about this,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “We know we have inter-league coming up relatively soon in National League ballparks. He’s aware of that. I’m not throwing the towel in on him playing first base. At the same time we’ve been able to be pretty darn productive with Mitch going every day.”

So, what about the plan to have Ramirez play first base, giving Chris Young an opportunity to serve as a designated hitter?

“That still is an alignment I would like us to achieve,” Farrell said.

With Ramirez’s shoulders not allowing him to play first throughout spring training, it delayed the process of implementing the original strategy. And when Ramirez was stricken with an illness, eliminating the plan to play him in the field in Detroit, it paved the way for Moreland to show he could handle the first against lefties and righties.

Moreland came into Thursday afternoon’s game hitting .351 with an 1.010 OPS. Against left-handers the lefty hitter was managing a .273 batting average and .839 OPS.

“After the missed the series in Detroit, we kind of backed away from that, giving him a chance to regroup physically,” said Farrell of Ramirez working out at first base. “But that’s not something we’re turning the page away from.”

Farrell also pointed out that, after his conversations with the righty hitter, Ramirez is still open to playing in the field.

“[He’s] not resistant,” Farrell noted. “We’re getting to the point with Jackie [Bradley] coming back, getting to full strength that this is going to be more of the intent than it’s been because quite honestly we haven’t had the pressing need with the injuries we’ve dealt and guys being sick.”

If Ramirez isn’t going to play in the field until the Red Sox’ first inter-league road game, coming May 9 in Milwaukee, one of the challenges for Farrell will be finding playing time for Young. Bradley is returning to the lineup Friday, and Andrew Benintendi has been hitting lefties at a .357 clip.

“Where he’s going to filter through and be in a similar role that he was when he signed here,” said Farrell of Young. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to take at-bats away from him. obviously Jackie coming back and having that alignment against right-handed pitching is likely going to be a better matchup for us. But Chris has done an outstanding job in the role that he has here and he’ll continue to be a valuable guy on this team.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

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