BOSTON — The good Chris Sale showed up at Fenway Park yesterday.
The VERY GOOD Chris Sale.
Toting a 4.27 ERA and 3-9 record into his start with the Blue Jays, who had hammered him to the tune of a 7.98 ERA in three 2019 starts, the skinny left-hander was in control from the start. Winless in his last outings — 18 earned runs in 21 1/3 innings — he struck out the side in the first inning and never looked back.
Six innings. Two hits. Two walks. Twelve strikeouts.
And no runs!
His first win at Fenway in 53 weeks.
It had to bring more than one Red Sox fan down from the Tobin Bridge but it also came with one caveat: It was ONE game.
Remember, before his latest downturn, Sale had gone through allowing two runs in three appearances. So, now, with the Sox in the midst of a big wild card race, with first place in the AL East still in the distance, Sale’s next start is at Tampa Bay and the one after that is against the Yankees.
His four wins this season have been against Toronto, Kansas City, Baltimore and the White Sox. He is 0-3 against the Yankees and the Rays (10 earned runs in 18 innings).
If he keeps throwing the way he did in this homestand finale, things should be fine the rest of the way.
Ma and Pa Kettle are at it again.
The verbal battle between Boston’s Odd Couple — David Price and Dennis Eckersley — boiled over again this week, with Price gathering the media to react to a single Eck quote in Chad Finn’s positive story in The Boston Globe.
This is two years now, folks.
You might remember Price airing Eckersley out on a team flight after Eck had the audacity to utter the word “Yuck” when the numbers from an Eduardo Rodriguez rehab start were posted on the screen. It was embarrassing to both parties, as well as the Red Sox, who really didn’t do much about it.
Well, Finn asked Eck about it for the piece and the answer was rather harmless.
“I didn’t know how to deal with that,” Eck said. “I don’t plan on saying a word to him, I don’t plan on seeing him, never. I don’t really give a (expletive) one way or another. I don’t think he really cares one way or the other.”
It was pointed out that the team’s broadcasters now board the team plane before the players.
Price went off.
“The fact that it was two years ago, over two years ago now,” the lefty said. “The fact that he wanted to move on and since then he’s went on the radio and talked about it, done it again. In 2017, I addressed it — told you guys in front of the camera I wish I handled it differently.
“I did it again in 2018 in spring training on day one. Said the same thing. We had a meeting set up in 2017 here at the field, got here early, hour and a half, two hours after I get here they come and tell me he’s not coming. We had a meeting, he backed out. I was gonna tell him, you know, ‘I apologize. Didn’t handle it the right way.’”
Asked if HIS battle with Eck had anything to do with Eckersley slamming Marcus Stroman for showmanship on the mound, Price said, “I don’t know. Have you seen videos of Dennis Eckersley pitching? Have you seen the stuff that he did when he struck somebody out? Really, like shooting with a finger gun? Stuff like that. Come on. Stroman’s out there saying, yelling ‘Yeah.’ Nah. He needs to wake up.”
How does this end? Marriage counseling? Two adults, one a Hall of Famer and one a fine major league pitcher, could finally end up talking and becoming the best of friends.
Here comes the closer
Nathan Eovaldi, a hero in the Red Sox’ run to the title last year, will travel to Baltimore and could be activated Friday or Saturday. He could move into the until-now unmanned role of closer for this confusing baseball team.
Does Eovaldi have the stuff? You bet. Is there a reason to worry about the workload of a guy who has had two Tommy John surgeries and is coming off another elbow cleanup, his second? You bet.
“I feel like I’ve gone through all the tests I possibly can. I feel like I’m ready to go,” Eovaldi said at Fenway after his final tuneup at Pawtucket on Thursday. He went one inning, with three strikeouts and one walk.
The key to relieving? “Just throwing every day and being ready to go every day,” he said. “I’ve been trying to do that now and get my mind right for it, but until you get in that situation where you’re able to actually go through it … we’ll see how it goes then. Just throwing it every day.”
It was 1961 when this then-7 year old attended his first major league game. Dad took me to Yankee Stadium and there really were three things that stood out: The green grass, how high up we were in the upper deck, and that the Red Sox had a guy named Pumpsie.
This week, Pumpsie Green, the Sox’ first black player, passed away at the age of 85.
Yankees broadcaster Suzyn Waldman paid tribute to Green, the player who allowed the Sox to become the last team to employ a black player (1959).
“I met Pumpsie Green once, when he was a truant officer, and teaching math and coaching baseball at Berkeley High School in California,” she wrote on Facebook. “I told him I was from Boston, and asked him why he and Gene Conley got off the bus in NY and tried to go to Israel. He told me during the conversation that he never thought he was good enough to be a Major Leaguer and wanted to play for the Oakland Oaks, talked about his wife, Marie, and told me he really loved Mr. Yawkey. He was a lovely, dignified man, was in a place he never wanted to be ... and I mourn his passing. RIP Elijah!”
Last year, Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez had dream seasons as the Sox won it all. This year, Betts is hitting .284 thanks to hitting .463 during a 10-game hitting streak. Martinez is at .286 and 19 homers and 49 RBIs. Those are not the kind of July 19 numbers a slugger wants to have during a potential opt-out season.
While the above two have been fairly pedestrian, and Andrew Benintendi has been down, Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts (along with Christian Vazquez) have been downright incredible.
Seven RBIs in the last two games for Devers, who amazingly has driven in 28 runs against Toronto. That’s the most RBIs ever in a season against the Blue Jays. That’s also the first Sox 28-RBI season against an opponent since Norm Zauchin in 1955.
Devers is hitting .325 with 19 homers (he didn’t hit his first until May 3) and 73 RBIs.
Bogaerts has his own 10-game hitting streak, hitting .475 with five homers and 16 RBIs during the stretch. One of the league’s most underrated players, he is at .315 with 21 homers, 74 RBIs on the season.
Finally, as the Red Sox were leaving town Friday, Fenway was being converted into a soccer stadium for John Henry’s Liverpool FC and a Sunday “friendly” against Seville FC.