Red Sox

Drellich: Now to see a different Chris Sale, the student

Drellich: Now to see a different Chris Sale, the student

CLEVELAND — Let’s see what the Indians make Chris Sale do. 

If the Red Sox ace rebounds well from this bad month — if he dominates a postseason outing against the same club that rocked him Thursday night — his repair could become his most impressive act in a potential Cy Young year.

Up until now, the story of Sale’s first season in Boston has been one of superiority. It’s been a tale of three unhittable pitches and flabbergasted opponents. Sale never shakes his catcher, you’ll recall, because he’s just that good. You’ve been watching an overwhelming, practically incomparable talent.

In the wake of his three-inning performance Thursday, the Sale that Red Sox fans will have a chance to better see going forward is the worker. 

He appears vulnerable now. He is, in fact, vulnerable.

“I just sucked, quite honestly,” Sale said after matching a career-low for innings pitched in a start.

Now to better understand Sale the scientist, Sale the student. We know about the notes Rick Porcello takes. What about Sale?

“We have to go back and look, not only at the two starts this year [against the Indians] but over the course of a bigger time period where there might be some other starts where we really comb through some video and see if there is any common thread throughout these,” manager John Farrell said. “We know there are some guys in that lineup that have had success against him. We may have to look a little bit more explicitly about how we devise a game plan against them.”

Sale is meticulous in his pre-start preparation, but a lot of what we know has to do with preparing his body to pitch. He empties his mind, purposely, once he’s on the hill.  But leading into his next starts, and again leading into a presumed October appearance, what will be tested is how well Sale can make repairs.

Surely, Sale has made corrections throughout the year. Maintenance is routine, but you rarely hear about it unless something goes noticeably wrong. This ship never really sputtered previously.

Was Sale tipping pitches? Were his mechanics simply off? Did he and catcher Sandy Leon fall into a pattern that the Indians have picked up on?

“It was basically everything,” Sale said. “You saw the pitches that they hit. Not down, not over the zone. They were center-cut. Everything was just right there.”

The answers, in some way, are less interesting than how quickly they’re found and who finds them and how and after how much time — assuming they are in fact found.

“Just get back to the drawing board tomorrow,” Sale said. “Obviously I'm going to look at what happened tonight and try to figure something out. Because my last handful of starts, that's just not it. Not good enough. Just need to be better. There's no way around it, and this one's kind of the cherry on top. Something's got to give, and we're going to figure it out.”

Farrell pointed to fastball command.

“Both Cleveland and Minnesota are two very good fastball-hitting teams,” Farrell said. “They’re the two who have swung the bat the best against him. It’s a matter of being able to throw your fastball to both sides of the plate for strikes and slow them down in certain counts.”

Historically, Sale has had lesser performances in the second half. Last year, however, he seemed to eliminate that issue.

This year is shaping up to be the first in Sale’s career that he makes more starts on regular rest than on extra rest. But there’s no indication right now fatigue is the problem.

“We’re in a stretch where we don’t have the luxury of building in an off-day,” Farrell said. “We have to get back to executing pitches.”

The pitcher who soared above the normal cat-and-mouse game is staring at a drawing board for the first time in his Red Sox career.

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Red Sox bats go silent in 5-0 loss to Tigers

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File Photo

Red Sox bats go silent in 5-0 loss to Tigers

DETROIT -- Mike Fiers might be pitching his way into a pennant chase.

The Detroit right-hander worked impressively into the seventh inning Saturday night, and Jose Iglesias homered and drove in four runs to lift the Tigers to a 5-0 win over the Boston Red Sox.

Fiers has been sharp lately, and after lowering his ERA to 3.49, he's looking more and more like someone the rebuilding Tigers might trade to a contender.

"You see it. You see your name pop up here and there," Fiers said. "I've just got to keep my mind focused on baseball and pitching and just go out there every fifth day."

The major league-leading Red Sox lost for just the second time in 15 games, and their AL East edge over the New York Yankees slipped to 4 1/2 games.

Fiers (7-6) had his first scoreless outing since his Tigers debut April 8, when he beat the Chicago White Sox 1-0 in Detroit's only other shutout this season. This time, he allowed seven hits and three walks in 6 1/3 innings, striking out six.

Brian Johnson (1-3) gave up two unearned runs and five hits in five innings for Boston. He struck out five.

Detroit took the lead in the second after Victor Martinez reached on an error by third baseman Rafael Devers, playing his first game since being reinstated from the disabled list. Devers fielded Martinez's grounder well behind third and his throw went past first, enabling Martinez to arrive safely.

That miscue proved costly when Iglesias came up with two outs and hit a two-run double, giving the Tigers a 2-0 lead.

Fiers was with the World Series champion Astros last year, but did not pitch in the postseason. He made one appearance in the playoffs for Houston in 2015.

He's making a nice case for another chance this season. Fiers threw only two balls through the first two innings Saturday, and he allowed three runs or fewer for the ninth time in his last 10 starts. He struck out Xander Bogaerts for the third out of the fifth with runners on first and third.

Boston threatened again in the sixth, but with two on JaCoby Jones was able to run down Jackie Bradley Jr.'s drive at the warning track in left field. In the bottom of the inning, Jeimer Candelario hit a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0, and Iglesias added a two-run homer .

Fiers exited with runners at the corners in the seventh. Alex Wilson got Bogaerts to ground into a double play, ending the inning.

Boston star Mookie Betts had two hits, raising his big league-leading average to .355. He also made a superb catch in right field in the third, reaching above the wall to catch Leonys Martin's drive.

"I really needed that," Johnson said. "We're so lucky to have this outfield. It is almost scary how many times they make plays like that. They almost seem routine, but they really aren't."

The Red Sox have been held to one run so far in this series by Detroit, although they did win the opener 1-0 on Friday night.

"Boston's scored one run in two games, and that's hard to do," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That says a lot about our pitching staff."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: Devers (left shoulder inflammation) went 1 for 4. ... 2B Brock Holt, who left Friday's game with a bruised knee, was out of the lineup. Manager Alex Cora said he'd like to give Holt the weekend off. ... DH-OF J.D. Martinez had the day off after running into the wall while making a catch Friday. "These guys that make the All-Star Game, they really don't have an All-Star break," Cora said. "He's getting the day off because he ran into the wall, but I think it's a good day off for him anyway."

DENIED

Fiers wanted a chance to face Martinez, his college teammate from Nova Southeastern in Florida. It didn't happen.

"I've already texted him," Fiers said. "All my friends have texted him, too. They're not going to let him off easy."

UP NEXT

Boston ace Chris Sale (10-4) starts the series finale Sunday against Blaine Hardy (3-2). Sale is 5-1 with a 0.94 ERA in his last seven starts.

J.D. Martinez out of lineup, sore after crashing into wall

J.D. Martinez out of lineup, sore after crashing into wall

A night after crashing into the right-field wall making a catch in the third inning of their 1-0 victory in Detroit, J.D. Martinez is out of the Red Sox lineup.

Here's a look at the catch: 

The news of Martinez getting the night off prompted this exchange with reporters, via The Boston Globe's Peter Abraham.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora said the "general soreness" won't make him reluctant from using Martinez, second in the majors in homers with 29 and tops in RBI with 80, in the outfield, where he's played 39 games in his first season in Boston, compared to 54 at DH.

Mookie Betts is back in right Saturday, with Jackie Bradley Jr. in center and Andrew Benintendi in right.

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