Just like his season as a whole, Thursday’s win for Chris Sale against the Rays came with positives and negatives.
Sale looked shaky early on, allowing his sixth first-inning run of the season. Before even recording an out in the third inning, he matched a career high with four walks. In the fourth, he allowed a solo homer to Tampa Bay’s Jose Lobaton, the fifth he’s surrendered this year. It took him until June 27 last season before he allowed his fifth homer.
But then came the positives. Sale worked around all that trouble to finish with just two runs allowed on four hits (and four walks) in seven innings of work, picking up his second win of the season. It was likely his finest outing since he silenced the Royals on Opening Day.
“I think the biggest thing was just kind of taking my frustration out of it,” Sale said. “Things are going to happen. You can’t throw confetti when you’re going good, and you can’t kick yourself in the rear when you’re going bad. ... Just go out there and keep a level head, and I think that was the difference.”
The 24-year-old lefty admitted to getting a little upset after his early struggles, and it took a talking-to from his catcher to get his head right.
“That’s kind of one of the things that I really need to work on is controlling my emotions and stuff. You kind of forget what you’re doing with TV cameras and all that stuff,” Sale said. “Flowers actually came up when he met with me on the mound and goes -- it was kind of funny actually -- he goes, ‘In the nicest way that I can possibly say this, when you start getting into trouble, you start trying too hard and going too much.’ Coop kind of came out and reiterated the same thing. From then on, I kept a little head and just tried to do my thing and go out there and pitch the way I could.”
The list of improvements to make didn’t end there for Sale, and he was relieved to have some help from his teammates.
“Maybe just as the game goes on, you throw a few more pitches and find your arm slot. That’s definitely something that I want to nip in the bud,” Sale said. “I think I’ve given up a run in the first inning the last few outings, so that’s something that I definitely want to tighten up. Obviously walking guys, giving free bases up can hurt you. I got away with it today thanks to some timely hitting and great defense. We pulled it through.”
Manager Robin Ventura has noticed Sale’s inconsistency in his first five outings of the year, but only one of Sale’s starts has gone horribly awry, when he allowed eight runs in 4 1/3 innings against Cleveland on April 13. Other than that, Sale has gone seven innings in his other four starts and allowed three or fewer runs in those four outings, as well.
“I think the last couple he’s been in and out of being consistent,” Ventura said. “So tonight he worked his way through it, and I think in the end you’re looking at what you would expect, with some little bumps in the road. But the way he battled back is what you like seeing.”
With the win, Sale’s record evens out at 2-2. While his season might not be off to the fast start it was last year, Sale says he isn’t doing anything differently and he just hopes to keep on pitching well.
“I’m just trying to build, trying to get better with each and every outing. I wouldn’t say there’s anything different that I’m doing [than last year], just kind of trying to push forward and stay on the same track,” Sale said.