CHICAGO — He’s skilled at making fun of himself when he’s bad at pitching.
The most positive element of Chris Sale’s homecoming in Chicago, a 13-7 Red Sox win, is an indication that in the future, he might have a real offense that can hit home runs behind him.
Because he definitely didn’t stick it to his old bosses on Wednesday night.
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An expected scratch-and-claw pitchers’ duel between Sale and a pitcher he said is like a brother to him, Jose Quintana, fell short of the billing. Both lefties were disappointing, and Sale delivered his worst start since the Red Sox traded for him.
“We were both off,” Sale said. “I think people were expecting something a little different, but they came to a seven o’clock batting practice session tonight. We were off.”
Sale did hit 99 mph and took the mound to an ovation, but a 42-pitch second inning sunk his day. He managed to eke out five innings, with five earned runs on 10 hits. He struck out nine and walked two.
“I wasn’t smiling a whole lot tonight, that’s for sure,” Sale said. “I kept them to a touchdown. I didn’t let them get the extra point. But no, it is what it is. I stunk tonight. I know it’s a big deal because I’m facing my old team and this is where I played and all that stuff, but I was just bad. I really was. And my guys picked me up tonight. That says a lot. For me to be able to walk out of this building with my chin up in a good mood, good spirits, music playing in the locker room after the game, I had nothing to do with that. And that says a lot about my teammates and who we got in that clubhouse.”
Sale was at 99 pitches after allowing two runs in the fourth inning, but seemed to tell manager John Farrell in the dugout in a very quick exchange that he was definitely going back out for the fifth. Sale turned in a 1-2-3 inning and exited with the Sox ahead 10-6.
He had help when he needed it in an ugly game.
Sale was given a 4-0 lead going into the long second inning. The White Sox cut the lead to 4-3, and the Red Sox kept coming, pulling ahead 7-3 in the third. After four innings, the lead had dwindled to 7-6, and Sale wanted the ball for one final frame after the Sox scored three in the top of the fifth.
The usually powerless Red Sox just kept going deep. Deven Marrero, who hit one home run in all of 2016 between Triple-A and the majors and is known only for his glove, homered twice. The Sox hit a season-high six home runs — their most since 2013, when they went deep eight times against the Tigers in a game started by Rick Porcello.
"I think you take back those minor league years and you just learn from them," said Marrero, who's a lifetime .220 hitter at Triple-A. "That’s what I’ve done with them. Each year, I kind of learn different things about myself as a hitter and as a player. I just want to be ready when I get my chance up here to be ready to take advantage of it. That’s what the minor leagues is for. That stuff doesn’t count. All that matters is what you do here on the big club."
Marrero said he had about 120 texts waiting for him, more than he had when he was drafted by the Red Sox as their top pick in 2012.
Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Mitch Moreland and Jackie Bradley Jr. also went deep. The Sox have just eight multi-homer games after putting together 51 last year.