It’s the time of year to cling to positives, to look for something to track for progress, or given the absence of Jose Abreu‘s power bat and Chris Sale‘s most overwhelming strikeout stuff, and Jose Quintana striving for a career year, just some feats of strength from the core is enough to be heartwarming.
In that vein, it’s a good thing Sale suddenly whirred to life and reeled off 14 strikeouts (thanks to an enormous strike zone all night), because otherwise the Sox would just be contemplating a mistake-filled mess.
1. The early innings certainly didn’t seem like they were going to serve witness to any season’s best efforts from the Sox ace. Even though it was clear he had top velocity on hand, he made mistakes like a low fastball to Franklin Gutierrez that got taken out to right-center for a second inning solo shot. He led off the third by plunking utility man Shawn O’Malley, was taken back up the middle by Ketel Marte for a single, then had the bases loaded on him with no out when lefty Leonys Martin dropped a bunt single on him. Jamming Guillermo Heredia for a double play and overwhelming Robinson Cano to quickly exit the inning was nifty, but still yielded another run.
2. Adam Lind, a lefty platoon DH at this point in his career, seemed like a ridiculous person to start against Sale, yet still came across a fastball he could handle and drilled a two-out RBI double over J.B. Shuck‘s head in center in the fourth.
That was the last baserunner Sale would allow. In retiring the next 16 in a row, Sale would strike out 10. With widened corners on the plate, and Sale mixing his change in along with his slider and his fastball cooking in the upper 90s, it was too much to cover at once. Sale struck out the side in the sixth and the seventh, struck out one more in the eighth, came out for the ninth with well over 100 pitches on his tab, and blew away Cano and Nelson Cruz while wrapping up the fifth complete game of his season.
It’s tremendous importantly to see Sale’s killer mode is still accessible, it should be very encouraging to see his conservation plan has him able of maxing out production in late-August.
Otherwise, it was all pretty bad.
3. Opposing starter Felix Hernandez was feeling somewhat generous in allowing eight hits and two walks on the night, but the Sox campaign of systematically exterminating their own baserunners was too efficient for that to matter. Todd Frazier drew a leadoff walk to start the second, but his patented practice of taking a walking lead to catch the defense sleeping and steal a base backfired when the defense…was not sleeping. After leading off the third with an infield single, Shuck didn’t even reach that far, getting picked off before he could even get into his jump. Shortly after Omar Narvaez gave the Sox a first and third opportunity in the fifth by following up a Frazier single with one of his own, he quickly took it away by drifting too far and getting doubled off on a Shuck lineout.
4. The Sox finally broke through in the seventh when Frazier worked an eight pitch at-bat on Hernandez that finally gifted him a center-cut 91 mph fastball to drill 400 feet out to left. True to form, it came just after Justin Morneau bounced into a double play to wipe a Jose Abreu single off the bases.
5. A pair of singles from the bottom of the order, Avisail Garcia and Tyler Saladino, and a walk from Adam Eaton to load the bases finally was enough to chase Hernandez in the eighth. Feverishly chasing a playoff spot and with an opportunity steal a victory against Sale, the Mariners turned to the one right tool: Edwin Diaz. Facing the rookie fireballer with a chance for heroics, Tim Anderson bounced a roller up the line that O’Malley barehanded at third to gun down Shuck at home, and Abreu popped out in foul territory to end the threat. As punchless as that seemed, Diaz returning to vaporize everyone in the bottom of the ninth was probably worse.
Team Record: 61-66
Next game is Saturday at 6:10pm CT vs. Seattle on CSN
Lead Image Credit: David Banks // USA Today Sports Images