And, you know what? They’re probably right. Alex Cora’s always right. Always. Glad the Red Sox gave him a second chance he did nothing to earn.
Still, though, even if you’re a believer in the Sox, you have to find it a little curious that Cora opted to use Chris Sale on Wednesday night in an effort to embarrass the lowly Mets, rather than against the Yankees in the biggest series of the year.
A Yankees team he historically owns outside of 2019, of course.
We won’t question Cora’s management acumen, and clearly some of this decision-making is predicated on keeping Sale un-exposed and available for the Wild Card Game.
On the surface, though, it sort of looks like Boston opted not to put their best foot forward, instead content to boost their national profile by extending their seven-game, narrative-changing winning streak, fueled by five home victories over the Mets and Orioles.
In those three Baltimore games, Boston beat starters with ERAs of 6.93, 9.61, and 7.96.
Why isn’t Chris Sale starting against the New York Yankees?
In essence, Sale has looked like a slightly more hittable version of himself since coming back from Tommy John surgery, which is absolutely nothing to sneeze at.
When right, Sale might be the most dominant pitching force in baseball. When wrong, it’s still pretty freaking advantageous to have him in your rotation.
Thus far since his return, though, it’s very obvious Boston has tried to ease him back to relevance. The Yankees gave Luis Severino a softer place to land, bringing him in from the bullpen in a 7-1 game. Sale returned to the rotation immediately, but didn’t exactly get marquee assignments for his first several starts back, instead “rehabbing” against some inferior opponents.
His first two starts back came against the Orioles and Rangers; he threw 10 innings, allowing 11 hits and two home runs. It didn’t matter. Boston beat the O’s 16-2, who typically decide they’d rather take the day off than attempt to defeat the Red Sox. They beat the Rangers 6-0 in a game that was only close if you lie about the final score and say it was 1-0 to your friends to seem cooler.
Sale’s fourth and fifth starts of the year are the only two outings he’s had against a contender, facing the Rays on both Sept. 1 and 6. In the first outing, he was similarly solid; six innings, six hits, two runs, but only three strikeouts.
In the second, his defense betrayed him, turning the final out of the inning into an inside-the-park home run. Remember, that’s what the Red Sox were up to before someone remembered they had magic jerseys buried somewhere in the back. He only made it through 3.2 innings, and though the runs didn’t hit his ledger, the lefty did clog the bases with 10 hits.
Only Sale’s most recent start against the Mets (yay, the Mets) has gotten his FIP under 4.00 for the season.
In other words, Cora’s mostly deployed him against incompetent teams in the second half, whether by luck or by design. More often than not, the starts have been short by Sale’s standards, featuring way too many stranded singles for comfort.
In a big moment, we’re confident this version of Sale can compete at a high level. After digging, though, it’s not stunning Cora didn’t really want the Yankees to find out what his ace is working with at the moment.