Red Sox

Chris Sale finally wins at Fenway Park and leaves Red Sox with reasons for optimism

Chris Sale finally wins at Fenway Park and leaves Red Sox with reasons for optimism

BOSTON -- Over the last year, Chris Sale has made all manner of starts at Fenway Park. He has allowed five runs and he has allowed zero runs. He has struck out 17 and he has struck out one. He has pitched with playoff seeding on the line and nothing at all at stake. He has dazzled and he has disappointed.

The one thing he hadn't done, until Thursday afternoon vs. the Blue Jays, was earn a win.

It's hard to believe that one of the best pitchers in Red Sox history could own such an ignominious record, but here it was — no one had made more consecutive starts at Fenway Park (13) without a victory than Sale.

The Red Sox had won five of them anyway, including two when Sale went at least six innings without allowing an earned run, so it's not like he had pitched terribly. Wins are context-dependent and not necessarily an accurate reflection of a pitcher's performance. But come on — we're talking about Chris Sale! For him to go more than a year between Fenway victories (his last coming on July 11, 2018 vs. the Rangers) is practically unfathomable.

The Sale who ended that streak on Thursday may not have looked exactly like his vintage self, particularly as he searched to find his fastball velocity and command in the early innings. But he produced vintage results over six shutout frames, striking out 12, hitting 96 mph late, and putting an end to a run of futility that was beginning to make him wonder when the madness that is his underachieving 2019 season would end.

"I think this year has just kind of been all over the place," Sale said. "I've been as bad as I've ever been in my career and I've also had some of the best games I've ever had in my career this year. So it's one of those things, it's more confusing than anything. Kind of all over the map. You go out there, and 17 strikeouts, complete-game shutout and then games when I'm not even getting out of the fourth inning. It's just more confusing. I feel like there are times when I'm racking up strikeouts but I'm also sitting there in a five-run hole. It's like one thing but not the other, or two things, but not the third one. It's just about doing it all at the same time and getting the results you need."

Facing a Blue Jays team that had pounded him in three previous starts this season, including the home opener, to the tune of a 7.98 ERA, Sale varied his pitch mix with electric results. His fastball sat at 91-92 mph in the early innings while he relied extensively on a sweeping slider and darting changeup. He struck out the side in the first and had 12 Ks through five.

As the game wore on, his velocity increased, too, nearing 97 mph on his final strikeout of the game to end the fifth. With the Red Sox comfortably leading 4-0, he was lifted after 101 pitches and the bullpen brought it home without incident for once.

And just like that, Sale finally could call himself a winner in Fenway Park.

"Long overdue," he said. "Nobody else to blame but myself, but obviously glad to get this one out of the way and now we can just focus on what's ahead and keep the ball rolling and have a happy flight, get on the plane and get down to Baltimore and start off on the right foot down there."

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MLB players not accepting Rob Manfred's apology after calling World Series trophy 'piece of metal'

MLB players not accepting Rob Manfred's apology after calling World Series trophy 'piece of metal'

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred tried more damage control on Tuesday.

After referring to the World Series trophy as a "piece of metal," Manfred apologized for the disrespectful comment after receiving plenty of backlash for his choice of words.

“I referred to the World Series trophy in a disrespectful way, and I want to apologize for it,” Manfred said at a press conference at spring training in Arizona. “There’s no excuse for it...It was a mistake to say what I said.”

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Several MLB players already are upset with Manfred's handling of the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal and many past and present Astros opponents have criticized the commissioner's penalties against Houston as far too lenient.

Manfred reference to one of baseball's most prized possessions - known officially as The Commissioner's Trophy - as a "piece of metal" only added more fuel to the fire, with current Chicago Cubs and former Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester, in particular, infuriated by the commissioner's words.

“That’s somebody that has never played our game. You play for a reason, you play for that piece of metal. I’m very proud of the three that I have,” Lester said, according to Associated Press. “If that’s the way he feels, then he needs to take his name off the trophy.”

Former Red Sox infielder and current WEEI radio host Lou Merloni also had some choice words for the commissioner. 

"Well, I'll say this. I had some time to think about it and no, I don't accept his apology because I think it's ridiculous," Merloni said on Boston Sports Tonight. "The trophy is called The Commissioner's trophy. He is the commissioner of Major League Baseball and to utter the words it's a 'piece of metal,' to me, is a slap in the face for people who played this game forever, well before he was the commissioner of this league. There are people for whom winning a World Series championship changes their lives. There are people that lose a World Series changes their lives.

"The closest I got was an ALCS. I never got to play in one. I never had an opportunity to win one. There's a lot of guys who have won many, and we praise them for it... they're in the Hall of Fame for it. To sit there and to basically minimize what the World Series trophy is, what this represents, to me, is inexcusable. So, you can apologize all you want, but he never should've uttered those words in the first place. I think it's a disgrace."

If Red Sox acquire Wil Myers, here's why fans should love a deal they'll want to hate

If Red Sox acquire Wil Myers, here's why fans should love a deal they'll want to hate

FORT MYERS, Fla. — At this rate, we might need to rechristen them the Boston Rage Sox, because every move they make fills their fans with fury.

If bloodshot eyes, balled fists, and foaming mouths impact one ability, however, it's to see clearly. And so let us explain why a seemingly indefensible trade for overpriced Padres outfielder Wil Myers actually presents our first encouraging view into Chaim Bloom's vision for the future.

The rumors out of San Diego -- an organization that leaks like a sieve, god bless -- are that the Red Sox and Padres remain engaged on Myers, a former Rookie of the Year who has fallen on hard times since earning his lone All-Star berth in 2016.

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San Diego's goal (per the Union-Tribune) is simple: dump as much of the $61 million remaining on Myers' contract as possible in order to enable a run at an impact bat like Cincinnati's Nick Senzel.

Here's the part where Red Sox fans might lose their minds. Just days after moving former MVP Mookie Betts and Cy Young Award winner David Price to the Dodgers in order to slash payroll, would the Red Sox really take $30 million right back in the form of Myers, a lifetime .251 hitter coming off the second-worst OPS (.739) of his career?

Yes, but Myers is hardly the point (despite Bloom's familiarity with him from their days in Tampa). What really matters is that the Red Sox would also receive a package of prospects likely built around right-hander Cal Quantrill (son of former big leaguer Paul), as well as slugging catcher Luis Campusano.

In other words, Bloom plans on using the team's considerable financial resources to buy prospects to replenish a strip-mined farm system. It's exactly the kind of move he was hired to make, and it's how one of the game's driest reservoirs of future talent can be replenished on the fly.

It may sound defeatist and incongruous now — dump David Price's salary just to pick up Myers'? — but the approach makes perfect sense. When the Yankees conducted their great purge in 2016, trading Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran, and Ivan Nova in the span of four franchise-altering days, they had one goal: adding young talent.

In return, they received Gleyber Torres (part of the Chapman deal), who's already a two-time All-Star and borderline superstar at age 23, as well as a host of other prospects. Justus Sheffield (Miller) and Erik Swanson (Nova) were used to acquire left-hander James Paxton from the Mariners. Former No. 4 overall pick Dillon Tate (Beltran) went to the Orioles for Zack Britton. Outfielder Clint Frazier (Miller) is a defensive butcher, but his bat (12 HRs in 225 ABs last year) still plays and gives him value at age 25.

Those acquisitions allowed the Yankees to reload with young, cheap talent, which in turn created an avenue for New York to spend lavishly on right-hander Gerrit Cole this winter.

The presence of catcher Gary Sanchez and outfielder Aaron Judge meant the Yankees boasted a better minor-league talent base than the one Bloom inherited, so Boston's turnaround won't be as instantaneous, but this is how it starts.

I won't pretend to know if Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, Connor Wong, Quantrill or Campusano are can't-miss stars. That's where you trust Bloom's track record in Tampa as an evaluator. What matters right now is volume, and the more prospects Bloom can add, the better.

Quantrill isn't technically a prospect anymore. He was chosen eighth overall in the 2013 draft out of Stanford and rose through San Diego's system as a consensus top-100 prospect. He went 6-8 with a 5.16 ERA during his big league debut last year and would step right into Boston's rotation, which remains in need of a fifth starter.

Campusano, meanwhile, took a giant leap forward, hitting .325 with 15 home runs at High A. Whether he's the future, or simply capital to make other moves, doesn't much matter at the moment. The Red Sox need replenishment, and if Bloom wants to buy it, that's what's known as an effective use of resources.

So while it may be tempting and even a little cathartic to lose your mind if the Red Sox acquire Myers, pay attention to the rest of the package, because that's where the deal will be won.