HOUSTON — If you go by earned runs allowed, and what other bottom line is there, Chris Sale’s postseason debut Thursday afternoon was one of the eight worst starts of his career.
The Red Sox ace was charged with seven earned runs for the eighth time in his career — one off his career-high — in a brutal beginning to the American League Division Series.
With the Sox trailing the Astros 5-2, John Farrell oddly chose to send Sale back out for the sixth inning, and allowed the first two batters to reach. Both scored later in the inning on a Brian McCann single against Joe Kelly, upping Sale’s earned-run total from five to seven once he was out of the game.
The only other time Sale allowed seven runs in 2017 was against the Indians, in August.
From the get-go, Sale was in trouble, allowing back-to-back home runs to the second and third hitters he faced, Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve for a 2-0 deficit. The Sox rallied to tie up in the fourth inning, but Sale immediately gave the lead back in the bottom half of the frame, on a two-out, two-run double from Marwin Gonzalez.
Altuve’s second homer of the game, another solo shot, made it 5-2 in the fifth.
The decision to send Sale back out for the sixth is more confusing in the context of a potential start on short rest. If the Sox want to go that route, having him throw 100 pitches even — he was at 89 pitches through five — doesn’t help.
There was a feeling going into the day that eight days of rest would help Sale’s command after a September that followed a disconcerting pattern: one good start, one bad. In the first inning, he was ahead 0-2 on the first three batters. The very first one, George Springer, struck out.
Sale struck out six and walked just one.