BOSTON - Cold weather aside, Tuesday’s Red Sox home opener got off to an encouraging start.
Several notable players from past Red Sox championship teams joined the festivities with trophies in hand, last year’s champs collected their new rings, and the Super Bowl LIII champion Patriots joined for the ceremonial first pitch. Then, ace Chris Sale pitched a 1-2-3 first inning and clocked a 94 mph fastball on the radar gun.
Things went downhill from there.
Sale, who let up seven runs on Opening Day in Seattle and then had a career-low average fastball velocity of 89.1 mph in Oakland, saw his struggles continue in his third start. The left-hander allowed five runs, seven hits, and even a steal of home in only four innings pitched.
With a 9.00 ERA after three outings, Sale was asked after Boston’s 7-5 loss if he’s ever felt this lost on the mound.
“Never in my life,” Sale replied.
That’s an alarming statement from someone who just inked a five-year, $145 million contract prior to the season, and it’s certainly not one that is going to help the Red Sox feel at ease.
Sale didn’t mince words or make excuses after the game. The 30-year-old took full ownership of the loss.
“We’ve got to win that game,” Sale said. “This is very easy to throw on the pile and say we aren’t playing good. This wasn’t us not playing good, this was me sucking today. That’s frustrating because today was the day we were going to turn it around.”
Manager Alex Cora noted Sale’s improvement in velocity from his last start, but called the ace’s off-speed pitches “inconsistent.”
“He wasn’t able to put hitters away,” Cora said. “Velocity was 91, 92. Showed some flashes of 94, 95 at the end. But as far as the off-speed, slider, a little inconsistent … the changeup wasn’t great.
“He didn’t have too many swings and misses, and we paid the price.”
Meanwhile, the Red Sox are 3-9 on the season with sole possession of last place in the American League East. They’ll have a day off on Wednesday, then look to get on the right track Thursday vs. Toronto.
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