Chris Sale’s return could not have gone much better last night. The flamethrowing southpaw went 5 innings in his first start of the 2022 season, allowing no runs on 3 hits and a walk, striking out 5. He was efficient too, needing only 78 pitches to qualify for the win. Most importantly though, Sale averaged 95.1 MPH on his fastball, which had been trending in the wrong direction in recent seasons. The gas was there for him last night.
It seems like the Sox finally have their ace back. Their true workhorse who’s guaranteed to give them a good chance at winning every fifth game. This could not have come at a more opportune time for them.
The AL East
The Red Sox would be in the second Wild Card spot if the season ended today. The season won’t be ending today, unfortunately. There’s still a ton of baseball left to be played, and the AL East is currently the last place you want to be playing it.
Every single team in the East is currently at or above .500. The Orioles, who’ve been the doormat you could rely on for a couple sweeps per season, are not to be trifled with any longer. They have won 9 in a row and are two games behind Toronto for the third Wild Card spot. How did the O’s get here? By playing really good defense, manufacturing runs, and having a lights-out bullpen.
The Red Sox don’t really have any of that going on. They don’t play great defense, they rely on the home run more than the Orioles, and have an…adequate bullpen. The latter is being taxed by the fact that four starters (Hill, Eovaldi, Pivetta, and Wacha) are on the IL. The AL East is filled with monsters and there are precious few healthy bodies the Sox can rely on to eat innings. The addition of Chris Sale was desperately needed.
The Stretch Run
Chris Sale and the stretch run of a season. Those two things go together like ice cream and sushi rolls. Year after year it’s been a similar story; early dominance followed by fizzling out in September and October. Although some of this might be mental, it’s almost certain that Sale’s violent, all-out delivery plays a part in him running out of gas near the finish line.
That’s why this July start to his season is so ideal for the Red Sox.
Now, Chris Sale’s return lines him up perfectly to be ready for the postseason. You figure he’s looking at about 100 or so innings of work this season, which is more than enough to make his presence felt in a playoff push. It also ensures that he still has his mid- to high-90s fastball locked and loaded when the at bats mean the most. As I said previously, the Sox have a banged up rotation and a middling bullpen. Even when players get healthy, they’re not exactly aces you can rely on in a big game (Eovaldi).
Sale should be that guy. The Red Sox should have a premier starting pitcher in their rotation right now.
So far, so good.
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