In one demoralizing sequence on Sunday afternoon in New York, the Red Sox’ season may have changed in dramatic fashion.
Chris Sale’s 1-1 changeup to Aaron Hicks in the first inning turned into a potentially worst-case scenario for the Red Sox. The line drive – smoked 106.7 miles-per-hour off Hicks’ bat – struck Sale on his pitching hand and sent him down to the Yankee Stadium grass. As the ball ricocheted into right field to score another Yankees run, Sale got up and immediately walked off the field without hesitation.
The pitcher went straight to the dugout, holding up his bent pinky finger, and down the stairs back to the clubhouse, where he learned that the finger was fractured.
Here we go again.
“I knew it immediately,” Sale told reporters in New York after yet another injury. “That feeling of cold water rushing through your body when something like that happens. …
“It sucks. What are you going to do?”
This was the last thing the Red Sox needed.
Two floundering weeks descended into disaster Sunday at Yankee Stadium. It’s too early to say how long Sale may be out, but the Red Sox couldn’t have finished their first half much worse as they lost yet another series against an American League East opponent. Sale’s first-inning exit led to a brutal 13-2 defeat, and his absence could have season-altering consequences.
Much will hinge on how long Sale will be sidelined. He was going to see a hand specialist in Boston on either Sunday or Monday to determine the next steps, but the pitcher is confident he’ll pitch again this season.
“It’s a broken bone,” Sale told reporters. “I’ve been there. Four to six weeks, starting getting active again, moving around a little bit and we’ll see from there.”
Either way, though, it’s highly likely he’ll miss significant time – again.
Sale was making his second start since coming back from a stress fracture in his right rib cage that kept out for the first three months of the season. Before that, Tommy John surgery forced him to miss the 2020 season and most of 2021. Unlucky may be an understatement for Sale, who has made just 14 starts (including the playoffs) since the end of the 2019 season.
“He’s been through a lot and obviously put himself in this situation and he was ready to compete,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters. “Now that we have to wait now, it’s not about the baseball player, it’s about the person. …
“There’s been a lot of obstacles in the journey the last few years and obviously, I don’t want to say disappointed but kind of like, ‘Here we go again.’ That was my reaction. He’s a guy that he has worked hard to get back. Another obstacle in his road.”
But even after yet another frustrating setback, Sale tried to keep perspective.
“I can overcome this,” Sale told reporters. “It’s a broken finger. It’s not the end of the world. Unfortunately in sports, this comes with a tax. I am who I am and I’m missing more time, and that eats me alive. But … there’s really tough times for people in this world and a broken finger isn’t the worst of it. …
“Everyone gets knocked down. How do you get back up? That’s where I’m at again. Get back up, dust yourself off, clean it up and get back to it.”
The loss of Sale also had short-term effects on the Red Sox, who didn’t recover on Sunday. Jeter Downs hit his first career home run – a two-run shot off Gerrit Cole in the third that made it a 3-2 game – but it was a fleeting moment of hope.
Without Sale, the Red Sox bullpen was needed earlier than expected. The game slipped away from them in the fourth, when Ryan Brasier and Jake Diekman combined to give up eight runs. With Cole on the mound, that was the game. The Yankees ace struck out 12 over seven innings, and the Red Sox struck out 16 times without a walk on the day.
New York Yankees’ Tim Locastro celebrates after a homerun during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox, Sunday, July 17, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)
There’s limping into the All-Star break, and then whatever the Red Sox just did.
A night after taking a 14-1 defeat to the Yankees, the Red Sox were embarrassed as they were outscored 27-3 over the final two games.
Two weeks ago, the Red Sox entered a critical stretch of 14 consecutive games against the Rays and Yankees that was supposed to say a lot about who they were. They finished it with a 4-10 record as they fell two games back of the third Wild Card spot. They’re 6-14 in their last 20 games and are now just three games above .500 with a 48-45 record.
And it doesn’t get any easier back at Fenway Park on Friday, when they’ll start a stretch of 13 games against teams with winning records. It’ll be even harder without Sale.
“We have to be better. Bottom line,” Cora told reporters. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the Yankees or whoever. We have to play better baseball. …
“We didn’t do enough this week as far as the baseball part of it. We struggled running the bases, defensively, on the mound. It was a tough week for us. … It’s a good time to reset. Enjoy the All-Star break and be ready for Friday.”