HOUSTON — Chris Sale does not look likely to pitch in a potential Game 4 of the ALDS, even if the Red Sox are facing potential elimination.
“Hundred pitches thrown yesterday, I would think he’s probably Game 5 availability first,” manager John Farrell said Friday. “So that would be my thought initially.
“It’s not being – I’m not squelching [the possibility]. But what we’re seeing throughout the month, we’ve got to factor all that in.”
The Red Sox do appear to believe fatigue is driving Sale’s loss of release point. Combined with how Sale looked in Game 1, and the motivation to use him in Game 4 appears to lessen.
“Because of his arm slot, he’s going to be a guy that doesn’t… You know, we all see, it’s one of his main weapons, that arm slot,” Farrell said. “And yet if it’s off a tick, it takes away from the overall depth of the breaking ball. I can’t say because when you look at the course of his career and what history shows, at this point in time of the season, the performance has maybe reflected some of that workload. So, I think they’re related. The time of the year, that workload, and maybe some of the definition to the pitches.”
The slider, in particular, has lacked its normal devastating action.
The question of what the Sox could have done differently with Sale over the course of the season, or what they could at least do differently going forward, has already come up internally. It’s not an easy question to answer: would an inning here and an inning there make all the difference in Game 3?
“I’ve had conversations with others in the organization about this,” Farrell said. “The highest number of pitches he’s thrown has been 118. We have taken every additional available day provided. If you were to take it a step further, this is where it’s a great debate, because you need every start to get to the point of entering the postseason. And yet, if you’re afforded, do you provide a longer break at some point during the season if you’re afforded a place in the standings to do that? All great in concept, these conversations. He’s pitched a high number of innings. We’ve given every additional day possible. The pitch counts have been, I think, well in check.”
It’s worth remembering that last year with the White Sox, Sale’s second half was arguably better than his first half, and he was throwing with less velocity throughout the year in an effort to be more efficient.
Sale wound up with a higher strikeout rate in the second half, 9.7 per nine innings compared to 8.9, with a slightly better ERA, 3.28 vs. 3.38.
Farrell said consideration of using Sale in Game 4 was weighed when the choice was made to send Sale back out for the sixth inning at 89 pitches in Game 1. Sale struggled, allowing the only two batters he faced to reach and was pulled at 100 pitches.
“We’re in a three-run game, and the sixth inning is the one you’re focusing on,” Farrell said. “And the fact we’re in a spot where we’ve talked about wanting to stay left-handed through that part of the lineup. By no means are we out of that game, so to go away from a spot in the lineup where you want to be left-handed for four days from now, I felt like it was important to address that inning vs. four days [ahead].”
The difference between Sale going five or six innings isn’t necessarily the reason Sale wouldn’t pitch Game 4 (although it couldn’t help).
“I don’t know that [roughly] 10 pitches is going to eliminate the potential of a shorter return,” Farrell said.
There is no finalized Game 4 starter yet. Rick Porcello remains in line to make the start unless he’s needed for an extended outing Friday. Eduardo Rodriguez could start if Porcello does not. Porcello’s inning in Game 3 did not affect his availability for Game 4.
Why is Devers sitting?
Dallas Keuchel has allowed 16 hits to left-handed hitters all year. That's why Red Sox manager John Farrell did not start one of his biggest power threats, Rafael Devers, on Friday in Game 2, opting for Deven Marrero instead. Marrero isn't known for his bat, but what he has done well in the majors this season is hit southpaws, with a.944 OPS. Still, there's a risk in a lineup with so little power in removing one of the few guys with a big-time swing.