Chris Sale is Creeping Back Into the Cy Young Conversation

Believe it or not, but Chris Sale has never won a Cy Young award. Since entering the league, Boston’s ace has been nothing short of dominant year in and year out. His highest earned run average came in 2015 with the Chicago White Sox, when he posted a 3.41 with 13 wins and 11 losses. And he still messed around and placed fourth on the Cy Young ballot and earned an All-Star selection.

In his eight seasons as a starting pitcher, Chris Sale has appeared on the Cy Young ballot Chris Salesix times and finished as the runner-up last year in his first season with the Red Sox. He’s been named to the All-Star team in each of those seasons as well, and it’s only a matter of time before he takes home the most coveted pitching award in the MLB. On Sunday, Sale was announced as an All-Star for the seventh straight year. While he came out of the gates a bit shaky this year, Chris Sale’s recent performances has him right back where he belongs: firmly in the conversation for the best pitcher in the American League.

Last season, Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians took home the honor, and he deserved it. He went 18-4 with a 2.25 ERA and led his club to a first place finish in the AL Central. Kluber had the lowest WHIP (0.869) of any starter on the ballot, and the second most strikeouts (265). Who had the most strikeouts you ask? That would be Chris Sale, whose 308 punchouts comfortably led the entire MLB. The next closest was NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer with 268.

Chris Sale’s Competition

Sale’s competition this year will feature some familiar, and talented, names. Yankee ace Luis Severino, who placed third in voting last year, is building a strong case with his 14-2 record, 143 Ks, and 2.12 ERA, the second-best in the American League. Justin Verlander is emerging as an early favorite to take home his second career Cy Young with his 2.15 ERA and 154 strikeouts. Kluber, at 12-4 with a 2.49 ERA, will likely return to the ballot as well.

In comparison, the Red Sox ace leads the American League in strikeouts with 176, 18 ahead of Gerrit Cole’s tally of 158. His 2.36 ERA ranks fourth in the American League, and his WHIP of 0.89 is good for third, with Kluber (0.88) and Verlander (0.84) just edging him out. Lastly, Sale leads the AL in strikeouts per nine innings at 13.0, and if it holds this would be the fourth season he has done so.

Where Chris Sale will falter to his competition will be his record, as he is just 9-4 on the year. However, his wins and losses serve as a poor reflection of his performance this year. The Red Sox seemingly hate giving their ace any sort of run support. On the year, the Red Sox average 4.65 runs in games started by Sale, and it’s reflected in his four losses and an additional six no-decisions. Granted, I’m not saying Chris Sale has been perfect, but I am saying some more runs would go a long way.

Back in Form

Sale truly returned to form in June, striking out 60 and going 3-2 with a 1.76 ERA. The Red Sox scored a combined three runs in those two losses. His lone start in July follows the same positive trend, as he punched out 12 and secured a win behind 10 runs from his offense. He has won his last three starts, and, in those games, the Red Sox have scored 26 total runs.

Chris Sale still has some work to do if he wants to take home the honor this year. His slider is still one of the deadliest pitches in the league. He must sustain his recent dominance to keep pace with his competition. This offense has shown they are more than capable of providing run support, and if they simply do so when Sale is on the bump, his case for the American League Cy Young will continue to strengthen.

Louis Sockalexis: Baseball’s First Native American

Everyone knows that Jackie Robinson integrated the MLB in 1947. The film 42, as well as Ken Burns’ documentaries about Robinson, clearly illustrate the struggles that he endured in the face of white adversity. But few people know the story of Louis Sockalexis, baseball’s first Native American baseball player.

Sockalexis only played in 94 games with 395 plate appearances over thee seasons. Hissockalexis first season saw him hit .338 with three home runs, quite a feat at the time. Unfortunately, he succumbed to the dangers of alcoholism and his career quickly declined.

Sockalexis is often identified as the first Native American to play Major League Baseball. Others, however, credit Jim Toy, a catcher in the early American Association, as the first.  Chief Yellow Horse, who played in the 1920s, is also often cited as the first Native American to play professional baseball. So why does Sockalexis get the credit? Probably because of his role in another legend about the Cleveland Indians. Can you guess that connection?

Sockalexis’ Impact Lives On In Indians’ Name

In 1915 the Cleveland Naps got a new owner who wanted to change the team’s name. Cleveland baseball writer settled on the name “Indians” in tribute to Louis, who had died two years earlier of complications from alcoholism. While he only played a few years in the majors, his legacy lives in with the Tribe.

Only the biggest of baseball fans would have any idea of who Louis Sockalexis was. In some ways that’s understandable. He didn’t have to endure what Jackie Robinson did in 1947. He also didn’t play long enough to have any lasting impact. But some fans might argue that Louis’ impact on the games does live in through baseball.

If the Cleveland Indians make it to the World Series again anytime soon (and they just might), readers of this article should reflect on Sockalexis’ legacy.

Christian Vazquez: Red Sox Secret Weapon

Christian Vazquez never got much attention before this season. His dismal batting average kept him in Pawtucket for much of 2016. His .227 with only eleven extra base hits wasn’t exactly impressive. What did impress everyone though was his fielding percentage. He currently has a .990 fielding percentage as of August 2nd. Fortunately for Vazquez, his bat finally caught fire this season. Vazquez was outed as the Red Sox secret weapon Tuesday night after hitting a walk-off home run defeating the Cleveland Indians 12-10.

Vazquez’s home run came at a critical time for the Red Sox. After a rough post All-Star losingred sox secret stretch, the Red Sox relinquished first place to the Yankees. The ongoing feud between David Price and Dennis Eckersley didn’t help their performance either. The game itself didn’t seem like a sure victory at all at first. Chris Sale surrendered eight hits and seven runs in five innings in a rare poor performance on the mound. The Indians’ Austin Jackson robbed Hanley Ramirez of a home run that just might go down as one of the greatest catches in the history of baseball. So for a while, it looked like the Red Sox weren’t going to win.

Then Christian Vazquez stepped to the plate. Little did anyone know, but the Red Sox secret weapon was about to push back at the Indians.

The Red Sox Secret Weapon Came At a Critical Time

As I stated before, the Red Sox really needed a victory here. Poor publicity, bad pitching, and lazy offense allowed the Yankees to snatch first place away. But in a game that had everything from drama, to suspense, to the perfect climax, you can’t say the Red Sox didn’t snatch back first place in style. More importantly, after years of writing him off as a sure out, opposing teams now have to take Vazquez much more seriously as a hitter. It’s bad enough for them that he has a high caught stealing percentage, making opposing runners think twice about stealing.

No one, not even those in Red Sox Nation, thought Vazquez could come through in the clutch like he did last night. But there’s only one thing that makes me angry about the whole thing.

I wasn’t in the mood to go to the ballgame and I gave my tickets away, so I wasn’t there to watch it live.

Akron RubberDucks Beat the Sea Dogs 5-3

Akron, Ohio – The Akron RubberDucks (31-31) received back-to-back homers with two outs in the eighth inning, and defeated the Portland Sea Dogs (29-33), 5-3, Friday night in front of a sellout crowd of 7,815 fans at Canal Park.
Eric Haase snapped a 3-3 tie with a solo-homer off losing pitcher Taylor Grover (1-2). Following Haase’s big fly, Tyler Krieger hit an inside-the-park to left-center field.  Grover allowed just those runs on three hits over 3.1 innings pitched.
Akron RubberDucks
Mitch Brown (1-1) allowed the tying run in the eighth inning on a run-scoring single to Mike Olt, but earned the win for Akron.
Portland took an early 2-0 lead against Akron starter Thomas Pannone. In the first, Jeremy Barfield nailed a two-out RBI double. In the second, Deiner Lopez knocked in a run by reaching on a third baseman’s error.
Akron chipped away in the fourth on a run-scoring fielder’s choice by Tyler Krieger. In the fifth, Jacob Dahlstrand yielded a two-run homer to Luigi Rodriguez, giving the RubberDucks a 3-2 lead.
Jake Romanski finished 3-for-4, his first multi-hit game of the season. Rafael Devers went 1-for-4 with a double.

The Road Ahead

The Sea Dogs and Akron RubberDucks (Indians affiliate) continue their three-game series on Saturday night at Canal Park with a 7:05 PM first pitch. RHP Kevin McAvoy (1-4, 5.54) makes his 11th start of the season.  LHP Tanner Tully makes his Double-A debut for Akron.
Listen live on the U.S. Cellular Sea Dogs Radio Network beginning at 6:50 PM and watch on MiLB.TV starting at 7:00 PM.
Tickets for Portland’s next homestand on June 23-29 are available at seadogs.com or 207-879-9500.

Where Did it All Go Wrong for the Red Sox?

The irony was painful. After a summer of blowout wins and offensive fireworks, the Red Sox succumbed weakly in the fall, unable to locate the big hit when it mattered most. A vaunted lineup, unrivaled in the Majors this season, was stifled by a resilient Cleveland Indians team, as old friend Terry Francona masterminded a Division Series sweep of Boston.

Red Sox

Before the series, few people took the Indians seriously. Three of their best players – Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar – were missing due to injury. Another star, Corey Kluber, saw his start pushed back due to another ailment. By most measures, the Red Sox were far superior. Most fans predicted a swift sweep. That’s exactly what they got, but of an entirely different flavor.

A Shock for Red Sox Nation

The way it happened was stunning. Boston didn’t play great to close the regular season, but a refreshed approach was expected once the playoffs began. Instead, Red Sox Nation was left waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more, for a team that never showed up. Almost from the first pitch in Cleveland, there was a sense of brewing melodrama. There was a sense that this team had run its course, quite incredibly. The Indians finished the job with shocking rapidity.

Perhaps plain old complacency is to blame. Did the Red Sox simply believe their own hype? That’s difficult to confirm, but it would at least explain the way Boston was caught like a deer in the headlights. When the games really mattered, when the wheat was separated from the chaff, this team wasn’t good enough. It just never got going. And now we’re left to contemplate through the bitter months ahead.

As people digest this loss around the hot stoves of New England, one topic will inspire more debate that any other: the choking offense. So powerful during the regular season, the Red Sox lineup froze on the biggest stage of all.

How Did the Red Sox Get Swept?

While it’s unfair to pinpoint any one guy for criticism, it is worth noting the performance of these praised hitters to paint a collective picture. Dustin Pedroia managed two hits in twelve ALDS at-bats. Mookie Betts, by all consensus an MVP candidate, collected just two in ten. That was better than Jackie Bradley, who produced just one hit, while Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez combined to go 6-for-24. It just wasn’t good enough.

Even David Ortiz, the master of October baseball, found little magic left in his wand. Papi added just one more hit to his postseason ledger before riding off into the cold night. For once, he couldn’t muster the big blow, and neither could his teammates. The Red Sox left 41 runners on base during this three-game series. They scored just seven runs. In the end, after all the worrying, that ridiculed rotation kept Boston in these games for the most part. The offense just couldn’t deliver.

And so, what now? The Red Sox will seek a replacement for Ortiz, as weird as that sounds. Perhaps John Farrell will see his position as manager reviewed. Maybe Dave Dombrowski will try to address some weaknesses throughout the offseason.

This young core will return to the postseason on plenty of occasions moving forward. But, right now, this was just a step too far for Mookie, Xander, Jackie and the rest. They should learn from the experience, and come back stronger for it. That may not help Red Sox fans deal with the present shock, but it should assist these players in preparing for future assaults on a World Series championship.