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.

Red Sox On The Brink Of Elimination

With all the optimism September brought for the Red Sox, October is sweeping it away. Winless this month, the Red Sox are facing a harsh reality: elimination. Cleveland quickly became the setting of Red Sox Nation’s nightmares with the debacles of games one and two. After two utter disappointments, the season will hang in the balance of game three on Monday at Fenway.

Game one was seen as crucial in that the Red Sox would need to win to feel Eliminationcomfortable. With Rick Porcello going against Trevor Bauer, it seemed like a sure win for Boston. Porcello, however, dug his own grave in the third inning, giving up three home runs. Even though the Red Sox had the lead twice before that, they were never able to recover. They cut it down to one twice and stranded the tying run at third in the eighth. A gutsy five-out save by Cody Allen closed out a 5-4 Indians victory.

Down 1-0 in the series, David Price got the ball to try and tie the series. This seemed like the perfect setting for Price to “earn” his contract money after an under-performing regular season. Once again, Price couldn’t resist the urge to let us down. Adding to his atrocious postseason resumé, Price gave up five runs on six hits in three and one/third innings. If this were his last start of the season, it would only be fitting. A four-run second inning capped by a three-run home run by Lonnie Chisenhall finished off the Red Sox in game two. An injured Corey Kluber stuffed my foot in my own mouth and shut the Sox out in seven innings en route to a 6-0 victory.

The Smell Of Elimination In The Air

So now the stage is set for the Red Sox. Game three at Fenway with Clay Buchholz on the mound. Dustin Pedroia talked post game about how this performance does not embody the team. Well, it’s time to put up or shut up. Pedroia is just 1-8 this series. Also, David Ortiz, Jackie Bradley, Xander Bogaerts, and Mookie Betts are a combined 3-28 in the first two games. It’s a bit scary to think the only bright spots, offensively, in both games have been Brock Holt and Andrew Benintendi.

A rah-rah kind of speech rarely works in baseball, but if Dustin Pedroia lit a fire under his team, they’ll certainly need it. They sleep-walked in Cleveland and it’s yet to be determined whether they’ll wake up before they walk right off the cliff. History may be on their side, the Red Sox are the only franchise to ever come back from this same deficit in the ALDS twice. The first time they did that was in 1999, coincidentally against Cleveland.

After game two, it really can’t get much worse. Monday should be a slugfest. The Red Sox should get their act together and Buchholz is pitching in Fenway, so the balls should fly. That should favor the league’s best offense, but who knows with this team anymore? Let’s just hope the Red Sox save us the embarrassment of avoiding a sweep. On the bright side, if they lose this series it’ll surely be the end of John Farrell’s tenure. That is, if they have any pride at all. It’s the little things.

ALDS Pitching Match-Ups

The importance of pitching in the postseason has been abused to the point that it is now clichéd. The focus of the Red Sox-Indians ALDS pitching will be no different. So much has been made about the starting rotation for both teams that it is tough to find a more crucial factor in this series. Plenty of question marks occupy the starting slots for these two division winners, which is why it’s imperative to take a deeper look at each game.

Game One ALDS Pitching Match-Up

Game One seems like a rare postseason mismatch, at least on paper. Going for the RedALDS Pitching Sox is Cy Young-frontrunner Rick Porcello, toting along his ML-leading 22 wins. Porcello has nary had trouble with the Tribe in his career. The Indians may have home-field advantage, but that shouldn’t faze Porcello either. In the past three seasons, he has two wins there with an ERA of 0.90. On the other hand, Trevor Bauer’s numbers don’t quite stack up. Bauer has had his struggles this year, which includes a stint in the bullpen, culminating in a 12-8 record with a 4.26 ERA. This year, Bauer is 0-1 with an ERA of 9.00 against the Red Sox. Also, the normal Red Sox lineup (with Travis Shaw and Brock Holt) is hitting .455 against Bauer in his career, that per Boston Sports Info on Twitter. Give the advantage to Boston in Game One.

Game Two ALDS Pitching Match-Up

Friday will bring about quite an intriguing match-up in Game Two. The Red Sox turn to their 217 million dollar man, David Price. While Price has picked it up in the second half, his frightening postseason numbers still lurk in the shadows. In eight postseason starts, Price has a 2-7 record and a 5.12 ERA. In 63.1 postseason innings, he’s allowed 12 home runs, 11 walks, and about a hit per inning. For Cleveland, there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding their former Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber. Kluber did win 18 games again this year, but he has had a nagging groin hinder the last month of his season. Kluber has won 10 games at home this year, but also has a 4.38 ERA against Boston in 2016. When Kluber is on, he’s on, no matter the situation. Price’s uncertainties outweighs Kluber’s, advantage Cleveland.

Game Three ALDS Pitching Match-Up

To conclude a massive day in Boston sports sunday, the Red Sox will host Game Three. Clay Buchholz will go to the hill for Boston and Josh Tomlin for the Indians. This is part of the “roll the dice” mantra for the Red Sox after starting Porcello and Price. Buchholz has been sharp in the second half with a 5-1 record and a 3.22 ERA. Tomlin doesn’t offer much deception outside of his fastball and has proved to be hittable this season. He hasn’t started much lately (only three in September), and has a 4.76 ERA at Fenway the past three years. Coming home in a tie series, the upper hand will go the Red Sox here.

Games Four-Five ALDS Pitching

Game Four on Monday brings a dilemma to Terry Francona’s Indians. It appears as if they’ll start their “ace” Trevor Bauer on four days rest. With Eduardo Rodriguez going for the Red Sox, there will be plenty of crooked numbers on the left field scoreboard. They will surely be playing long ball at Fenway in Game Four (if necessary.) With that, give me the league’s best offense in a shootout. Advantage Red Sox.

While I don’t think Game Five will necessarily happen, it’s definitely a toss-up. It is always hard to pick a winner-take-all game like that. If we are to look at the raw statistics though, it looks like no contest. Picking against Rick Porcello at all the past few months would have been foolish. Also, Cleveland still does not know what to expect from a laboring Corey Kluber. If it gets to that, I don’t care where it’s being played, give me the Red Sox.

Obviously, there are plenty of other factors to think about in this series. Bullpens, switch-hitters, and a struggling Mike Napoli are not to be forgotten. But if we’re purely going on starting pitching, this is the Red Sox’s series to lose.