It was expected that the first few outings of Chris Sale’s season could be turbulent.
They have been, but things took a perplexing turn Monday.
The Boston Red Sox southpaw has been attempting to find his form after years of injury-marred seasons. He hasn’t exactly returned to ace status so far this season, but the closest thing we've seen to vintage Sale was last week against the Twins. Sale dominated Minnesota’s lineup, striking out 11 across six innings, surrendering just one run off three hits and a walk.
Even though his previous three outings leading up to the Twins game were subpar, they featured plenty of strikeouts. So it wasn’t so much that the Orioles roughed up Sale -- who gave up five runs off nine hits and a walk -- that was surprising, it was that they never struck out.
Sale got close, too, getting into nine two-strike counts. Sox manager Alex Cora said they’re going to have to dive deeper into that "red flag" during his weekly appearance on Gresh and Fauria.
“The no swings and misses is a red flag," Cora said. "I’m not talking about health, it’s about pitch mix or pitch selection. Obviously the fastball up in the zone was a non-competitive pitch. The no swings and misses on the slider, and he had an OK one yesterday, is one where we have to get back to the drawing board and see if there’s something going on tipping-wise or pitch selection or all that stuff because it doesn’t make sense.
“The guy struck out 30 guys his first three or four starts with OK stuff, and yesterday it was very similar and we didn’t get one. So, we’ll take a look, work at it and get him ready for Sunday.”
It is worth adding that the Red Sox took issue with home plate umpire Junior Valentine's strike zone much of the night. Even if some calls broke Sale's way, it certainly wouldn't be enough to negate the fact that something seems amiss.