The Boston Red Sox will turn to Chris Sale to start against the Houston Astros in the pivotal Game 5 of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park on Wednesday night.
The series is tied after the Astros' 9-2 win in Game 4.
Going with Sale is a bit of a risky decision based on his previous three outings -- two of which have come in the 2021 MLB postseason.
But Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom is optimistic that Sale will be effective in his next start, and he explained why on WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show".
"I think the trend line, and you look at the last outing -- and obviously, he'd be the first to tell you he wanted to get more than eight outs, but when you compare that to how he pitched in the Rays series, he was able to use the whole strike zone," Bloom said Wednesday morning.
"His stuff was live, he was executing pitches pretty well. The huge strikeout of (Jose) Altuve, who's a really talented hitter. That whole lineup puts the bat on the ball as well as any group in baseball. I think it shows you he's starting to find something, so we're hoping to see a continuation of that.
"When you get to this point in the postseason, these games have a funny way of evolving where you're not necessarily expecting -- unless you have a big lead and someone is cruising -- you're not expecting one guy to run it from start to finish. I expect we'll see a number of different pitchers in this game, depending on how it unfolds. But certainly, I think Chris is on a track where I'm excited for what he's going to show us tonight."
Sale's last outing was Game 1 of the ALCS in Houston. He gave up five hits and one earned run but only got through 2 2/3 innings. His first start of the postseason was Game 2 of the ALDS versus the Tampa Bay Rays. He allowed five earned runs on four hits and lasted just one inning.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora could have opted not to use Nathan Eovaldi in the ninth inning of Game 4 and instead started him in Game 5. That way the Red Sox have their best pitcher take the ball in the most important game of the season (so far).
Sale has yet to prove he's a reliable playoff performer. He has a 9.07 career postseason ERA, a steep increase from his career 3.03 regular season ERA. He's earned one win over nine postseason appearances since joining the Red Sox in 2017.
Sale is capable of giving an excellent performance, and his velocity in recent outings is definitely encouraging. It is, however, a gamble from Cora. That said, Cora has pushed the right buttons often enough as Red Sox manager to be trusted with this decision.