Sunday night felt like the result of a Faustian bargain made years ago: Chris Sale struck out the side with three silly sliders getting three silly swings in the ninth inning to seal a World Series title for the Sox …
… but they never said which ooooooonnnnnnnneeeeeeee!
Regardless of what happens from here, both the Red Sox and Chris Sale capitalized on his time with a contender, and their side of the trade is secure. Sale gave the Red Sox exactly what he gave the White Sox — staring pitching quality deserving of heavy Cy Young consideration every year he takes the mound.
The Red Sox gave him what the White Sox couldn’t — a team that knows more about winning than he does.
Put Sale on a team in command of itself (and division), and it keeps the crazy at bay. And when the crazy finally surfaces in the form of a dugout eruption in Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday, it’s in an environment that can manufacture it into a positive.
Sale exploded at his team in the dugout six innings into Game 4 on Saturday as the Dodgers held a 4-0 lead by holding the Red Sox to one hit. “He throws two f-cking pitches!” he screamed at his teammates about Dodgers starter Rich Hill.
On a lesser team, maybe this is the sign of fracturing, or at least some eye-rolling. But here, the Red Sox stormed back, going from down 4-0 to winning 9-4, serving up a triumphant narrative on a platter:
In those responses, the Red Sox seem to respect Sale and are amused by him, but they don’t indulge the storyline all that much, because Sale’s desire and ability to win run parallel to theirs. Jeff Passan’s column at Yahoo Sports probably gives it a fair treatment:
“Chris Sale is a leader,” Red Sox hitting coach Tim Hyers said. “And he did it the way Chris Sale knows how to get the team moving. We have to give him a lot of credit. It was perfect timing.”
He’s right. It was perfect timing, because it looks causative. And then you remember: Sale talking about how hittable Rich Hill should be didn’t cause Moreland to study how Madson pitched Jackie Bradley Jr. while standing on deck. After abandoning his changeup in earlier appearances in the series, Madson had started throwing it again and flipped a few to Bradley. Moreland came to the plate guessing first-pitch changeup, and when it arrived, he parked it well into the right-field stands. The 54,400 at Dodger Stadium who had made the place shake when Yasiel Puig walloped a three-run homer in the sixth to give Los Angeles its lead went almost silent.
The little moments like Moreland’s dissection of Madson – the studying hitters use to mitigate pitchers’ advantage – were abundant in the Red Sox’s comeback. It’s one of the chief reasons they can clinch a championship with David Price on the mound in Game 5 – or, perhaps, Sale, who’s going to be available out of the bullpen Sunday while also slated to start a potential Game 6.
Whether you want to call Sale’s speech meaningful, meaningless or even potentially counterproductive, the Red Sox Machine was able to incorporate it into their triumph, rather than get sidetracked by it. And when it came turn for Sale to walk the talk, he held up his end of the bargain.
Sale’s first post-speech appearance was supposed to be the last appearance by any pitcher in 2018, as he was tasked with recording the final three outs of the clinching game. He got the job done, with his usual amount of overkill. He struck out the side with three filthy sliders, the last of which screwed Manny Machado into the ground:
Chris Sale, Disgusting 84mph Slider. 😨😳
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 29, 2018
Personally, I found Sale’s dugout diatribe reassuring. My biggest fear with the Sale trade was that the Red Sox would figure out how to address all of his shortcomings and, in turn, unlock the greatest pitcher alive. That hasn’t happened. Sale still hasn’t solved the second-half fade. The deadpan belly-button ring episode during the ALCS shows he still likes dipping his toe into BS, and now we see that his intensity still can boil over. It’s just all so much more manageable when his freak show isn’t the only thing keeping the circus solvent.
Seeing Sale reach the pinnacle with another uniform while the White Sox hit a 48-year low surely picks open some scabs, but the reminders are constructive. It’s worth knowing the length of the road ahead. The White Sox haven’t yet cemented a young core, and whenever they do, it’ll be just one part of the puzzle.
On that note, welcome to the official start of the offseason. Over the next five days, the White Sox will have to decide on James Shields and Nate Jones. One month from now, the White Sox will have to decide which players to protect from the Rule 5 draft. Get settled, peruse the Offseason Plan Project, and try to enjoy Sale’s spoils vicariously.