Chris Sale struggles in return to Chicago but lefty beats White Sox thanks to mates’ six home runs
CHICAGO — Chris Sale was going to have a bad game eventually.
But since he’s so masterfully handled Fenway Park in front of sellout crowds for an underperforming team that hasn’t been scoring for him, few could have expected that his first stinker in a Red Sox uniform would be in a pressure-packed game that’s been hyped in Chicago for weeks.
After getting cheered by a hearty crowd of White Sox fans at Guaranteed Rate Field upon taking the field in the first inning, Sale crumbled against his former team, giving up six runs on 10 hits, including a two-run homer by Todd Frazier.
But in this bizarro baseball game, it didn’t matter.
The light-hitting Deven Marrero homered in back-to-back innings and drove in five runs to lead the Red Sox to an 13-7 victory.
The Red Sox hit six homers overall and because Sale got through the fifth inning, he picked up the win.
“Clearly didn’t have it tonight,” Sale said. “Kind of all over the place, erratic, wasn’t throwing a lot of strikes. But when the boys come alive behind you, it’s nice. I don’t know how many times I’ve given up six runs and still been in a pretty good mood after the game. That says a lot about my guys behind me.”
Thanks to an equally disastrous performance by Jose Quintana, who was supposed to fill Sale’s shoes as the new ace of the White Sox but instead has a 5.60 ERA, the Red Sox scored seven runs in the first three innings.
With Pablo Sandoval a late arrival on his trip back from Triple-A Pawtucket, Marrero got another start at third base and took advantage of it. He lifted a low curve for a two-run homer and went back-to-back with Mookie Betts in a four-run second inning.
Sale gave up three runs in the same inning, but Marrero went deep again in the third, this time hitting a three-run homer that knocked Quintana out of the game.
But Quintana wasn’t the only pitcher who couldn’t execute breaking balls. Sale’s slider was loopy all night. He still generated nine strikeouts, but his signature pitch was far from sharp and the White Sox had no trouble lining it up.
“We were both off,” Sale said. “I think people were expecting something a little different but they came to a 7 o’clock batting practice session tonight.”
The White Sox got one run back from Sale in the third and then scored two on Frazier’s homer in the fourth.
John Farrell approached Sale in the dugout after the fourth, but Sale appeared to tell the Red Sox manager he wasn’t coming out of the game.
“He wouldn’t be human if there wasn’t added adrenaline in coming back home to where he’s pitched so many quality seasons for the White Sox,” Farrell said. “But, still he’s a competitor and gave us everything he had for the five innings tonight.”
On 99 pitches, Sale returned to start the fifth inning.
On just 12 pitches, Sale retired the side for his only clean inning.
“I wasn’t smiling a whole lot tonight that’s for sure,” he said. “I kept them to a touchdown. I didn’t let them get the extra point. But no, it is what it is. I stunk tonight.”
And it wasn’t just the adrenaline.
“I know it’s a big deal because I’m facing my old team and this is where I played and all that stuff, but I was just bad,” he said. “I really was. And my guys picked me up tonight. That says a lot.”
Nine of the 13 runs the Red Sox scored were driven in from the No. 8 and No. 9 spots in the order, with Jackie Bradley Jr. providing a three-run homer in the fifth. He finished 2-for-3 with two walks and four RBI.
Sam Travis was 3-for-4 with two doubles, the first two of his career. Mitch Moreland took over for Travis as a defensive replacement and hit a two-run homer in his only at-bat.
After Blaine Boyer served up a home run and put runners on the corners with the tying run in the on-deck circle in the eighth inning, Farrell turned to Craig Kimbrel for the final four outs.
Just like the Red Sox drew it up.
Sale must have been relieved his reunion in Chicago was finally over.
“No, I was actually looking forward to this,” he said. “I wish I enjoyed it more.”