|Sale looks to get back on track for Red Sox against Blue Jays|
In a getaway game on a Thursday afternoon in mid-July, Chris Sale faces one of the most important starts of his career.
The left-hander is mired in the worst slump of his life, allowing five runs in each of his last three starts and still seeking his first win at home since July 11, 2018. He'll get the chance to reverse those fortunes once again as his Boston Red Sox host the Toronto Blue Jays in the finale of a four-game series.
Sale (3-9, 4.27 ERA) termed himself "a liability" after his last start, when he allowed five runs on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He dropped to 0-3 with a 4.76 ERA in nine outings at Fenway Park this season and took himself to task when speaking with reporters postgame.
"(There's) nobody else to blame," Sale said. "In a way, I guess that's a good thing. It's all on me."
His manager, Alex Cora, believes otherwise.
"We have to figure it out. We will," said Cora. "This guy is one of the best pitchers in the big leagues, and that's on us to get him right."
Getting things right against the Blue Jays could prove a tall task given the way they've played against Sale this year. Toronto has tagged him for 14 runs (13 earned) in 14 2/3 innings across three starts, a far cry from his lifetime ERA (3.10) against the club.
Left-hander Thomas Pannone (2-3, 6.18) is expected to take the mound for the Blue Jays opposite Sale in just his third start of the season.
The Red Sox have won two of the first three games in the series, including Wednesday's by a 5-4 margin. Rafael Devers was 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs in the contest, continuing his dominance over Blue Jays pitching.
Devers has 25 RBIs in 14 games against Toronto this season - a new franchise record.
"Quality at-bat after quality at-bat," said Cora of Devers, who leads the team with a .326 average. "He stuck with the process as far as staying in the zone. He started hitting the ball in the air, and now we see this."
The Blue Jays came close to stealing the game with runs in the eighth and ninth, but they left seven men on base over the final three innings. A positive, though, came in the return of trade chip Ken Giles, who made his first appearance since July 4 after missing time with nerve inflammation in his throwing (right) arm.
Giles gave up a run on two hits and a walk in an inning of work.
"Definitely rusty," Giles said. "But overall I was satisfied with it. I came out of it with no problems whatsoever."
Teoscar Hernandez homered twice for the Jays in the loss and has three in his last two games. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. also went yard and has five hits in his last two.
Pannone will make his first start since giving up seven runs in 2 1/3 innings against the Texas Rangers on May 4. He was tagged for four runs in 4 1/3 innings out of the bullpen against the Red Sox on July 4, his last appearance.
After Thursday, the Red Sox and Blue Jays will conclude their season series in Toronto on Sept. 10-12.
-Field Level Media