Red Sox

Alex Cora: Chris Sale will be in Red Sox’ ALCS rotation

The Red Sox manager confirmed Sale would start at least one game against the Houston Astros after struggling against the Tampa Bays Rays in his last start.

Chris Sale Red Sox
Chris Sale. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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Though the Red Sox went on to win Game 2 of the ALDS by a resounding margin, the game didn’t go swimmingly for starting pitcher Chris Sale.

The lefty, who was starting his first postseason game in three seasons, only lasted one inning in the divisional round matchup against the Tampa Bay Rays. The AL East champions and World Series runners-up from a year ago chased Sale early with five runs on four hits in the opening frame, including a grand slam by Jordan Luplow.

But despite Sale now having two subpar starts in a row, including his short season finale against the Washington Nationals, Red Sox manager Alex Cora isn’t giving up on him yet.

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Cora told WEEI’s Merloni and Fauria Show that Sale will start games for the Sox in their ALDS set against the Houston Astros, which begins Friday night.

“He’s still in the rotation. He’s going to be a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish,” Cora said.

In fact, the manager added, he was prepared to put Sale in the game to close out the Rays if fortune had allowed.

“He was probably going to come in with a lead in the ninth, because the way they were set up with lefties, there were a lot of good matchups for him,” Cora said. “He’s ready, he’s great. He’s part of the rotation.”

The move puts a lot of trust in the former All-Star, who has hit some recent speed bumps in his return from Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm.

After going 5-1 in his first eight starts back from the injured list, Sale struggled with control in his final 2021 start against Washington, giving up four hits and three walks in 2 1/3 innings. Then came the disaster against the Rays, which could’ve put the Red Sox in an 0-2 playoff hole in the best-of-five series.

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Cora hinted at mechanical issues being the culprit in Sale’s poor performances, saying the team searched through video to find flaws to correct.

“There was a big film session two days ago and people just looking at a few things, and hopefully we found it,” the manager said. “From now on, he’s going to be Chris Sale for us, and give us the opportunity to win ballgames.”

Sale likely won’t be the Red Sox’ Game 1 starter given the uncertainty about his performance, with that nod more likely to go to Nathan Eovaldi or Eduardo Rodriguez. The lefty has also had his struggles against the Astros, posting a 7.24 ERA in the three postseason games he’s pitched against Houston since 2017.

But the return of the real Sale — or at least the guy who pitched into the sixth inning or longer in 7 of 9 starts this season — gives the Red Sox a much better chance of pulling off a shocker over the Astros and making it back to the World Series.

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