Normally Chris Sale domination is an assumed element of Chris Sale Day, but after a curiously delayed start to the season, two-straight clunkers, and another suspension-caused extra break, there has been plenty of time to create anxiety that he would look like himself again.
And then he came out and razed the Brewers lineup and all was fine.
Sale baited us by beginning the game by allowing a leadoff triple and early run for the second-straight start, but was lights out the rest of the way save for a hanging slurve that Elian Herrera nailed for his second surprising solo shot in as many nights. Sale struck out 11 over eight innings, walked one, and made a critical Robin Ventura look brilliant by giving him two more brisk innings after his manager opted not to pinch-hit for him in the top of the seventh. Combined with the unworldly David Robertson in the ninth, and Sox pitching finally provided an easy cover for their janketty offense to bang its head against the wall enough times that four runs shook out.
And so the third road victory of the season was had, on May 12.
- Sale threw his slider sparingly again (Brooks Baseball has him with just 12 on the night, and since he hung one to Herrera, it rated out poorly), but flashing it early only helped as he drilled down to a more repetitive fastball-change combo later on. Sale didn't touch upper 90's quite as often, but compensated with stellar control and command, darting around the black and gunning inside on right-handers for whiffs. He saved his first and only walk for his penultimate batter of the night. The Brewers are going nowhere fast, but this was an invigorating performance.
- In one of those little regular season victories, Ventura bet on Sale giving him more innings to save a bullpen that bottomed out the previous night when Zach Duke went into his third consecutive night of work. Sale batting in the seventh didn't do much for that RISP opportunity, but got the Sox two more innings and a direct bridge to David Robertson, and the offense rewarded them by overwhelming a pretty sorry-looking Brewers bullpen for tallies in the eighth and ninth. It was risky, but it broke right and could pay large dividends later in the week.
- There weren't any huge offensive heroes, as only Avisail Garcia (still hitting .316) and Tyler Flowers posted multi-hit games, and back-to-back doubles from Alexei Ramirez and Flowers in the fifth were the only extra-base knocks. Mike Fiers struck out seven over 6.1 innings, and has been having success with his weird low-90's slop for a while now, so it's hard to dismiss it as a night where the Sox didn't crush enough hittable stuff. Bad Brewers defense (three errors) and run-of-the-mill pitching meant the Sox had 15 baserunners to Milwaukee's five, and the game eventually sagged and broke under the weight of the opportunity disparity.
- Micah Johnson reached base three times and knocked in a run, and still managed to have a rather icky feeling performance. He dropped a routine feed on a rundown to give Carlos Gomez a free stolen base, and got thrown out at third trying to grab an extra base on a throwing error with no one out while representing an insurance run in the ninth. Him being a sloppy player needing refinement is unsurprising given that he's a rookie and reports of him from the minors, but the slow start tightens all belts.
- Ethan in particular is on board the 'Conor Gillaspie is unrosterable' movement, and he certainly didn't cover himself in glory by booting a grounder and going a particularly ugly 0-3 with the platoon advantage against middling righties all night. I'm pretty sure Jose Abreu would run into some sort of disaster playing third base, and Gordon Beckham is perfect for his bench role in a way he'll never be as a full-timer, but having Gillaspie follow up Abreu and Garcia by waving helplessly at loopy curves is pretty deflating.
- The Sox improved to 3-12 on the road, and merely have to win out the week to finish .500.
Next game is Wednesday night at 7:00pm CT in Milwaukee on CSN