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Red Sox notebook: Chris Sale arguments fine by John Farrell

September 17, 2017

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — From John Lackey and Jon Lester, to Wade Miley, to Rick Porcello, Drew Pomeranz and most notably, Chris Sale, there’s a long line of pitchers who have expressed clear anger with John Farrell when getting pulled out of the game.

But to see it from Sale, who looked like the sure-fire Cy Young winner until the beginning of August, as Farrell started walking to the mound on Friday night, was a unique scene.

Before his late-season slide, Sale would easily have all of New England behind him if he wanted to stand up to his manager and tell him he’s staying in the game. At one point early in the year, Farrell could be seen in the dugout telling him his night would be over, only for Sale to tell him it isn’t. Sale stayed in the game.

On Friday, though, after Sale had given up four runs in 52/3 innings and pushed his ERA to 4.25 since Aug. 1, he had less of a case.

And yet, the second Farrell popped out of the dugout, Sale could be seen yelling at him, “I got it. I got it.”

When Farrell kept walking, Sale shook his head.

When Farrell took the ball, Sale gave him a mouthful.

“I love it, too,” Farrell said when asked about it yesterday. “I love it when guys argue with you or they want to express how they feel. I’ll take 12 of those over a guy who’s looking forward to handing over the ball.

“Last night, I know Chris didn’t want to come out of that game and I fully respect that. That’s the competitor that he is.”

Sale blamed himself afterward, but it’s certainly easier to do that after the Sox came back to beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 13-6, in the 15th inning.

“As a competitor you want to stay in there, finish your job,” Sale said. “That’s my job. I play once a week. I want to be out there as long as I can and eat up as many innings as I can, save the guys in the bullpen, stuff like that. But I did it to myself.”

Farrell certainly has a stronger case now, given that Sale, the MLB leader in innings pitched and strikeouts, has begun to show signs of wearing down this late in the season.

His velocity has been fine — he touched 99 mph Friday night and averaged 95-96 mph on his fastball — and he’s still striking out a league-best 12.7 batters per nine innings since Aug. 1, despite his ERA rising.

But Farrell believes the workload is catching up to Sale, and in response, the Red Sox have tried giving him extra rest when able to do so. Lately, that means pulling him early in games, too.

“The command started to elude him a little bit more,” Farrell said. “I know he didn’t want to come out of that game. Given that he was approaching 100 pitches, recognizing how much he’s pitched this year, felt like at the time that was the move to make.”

Unique looks

The Sox aren’t trotting out lineups with Aaron Hill leading off. They’re not starting Henry Owens in the rotation.

Last year, the Red Sox took the foot off the gas down the stretch and stumbled into the playoffs on a bad note, eventually getting swept by the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS.

The lineups the Sox have used this weekend may look odd, and they certainly are different, but this is the best the team has right now.

Dustin Pedroia (left knee) has limitations and, after going 0-for-9 and playing all 15 innings as the designated hitter on Friday night, needed yesterday off. Eduardo Nunez is still out with a knee injury (though he could return as soon next weekend). Hanley Ramirez has biceps inflammation, among other ailments, and is considered day-to-day, though Farrell has been vague about Ramirez’ role/diagnosis.

The injuries resulted in Chris Young serving as the designated hitter last night, despite Young being just 3-for-16 lifetime off Rays starter Alex Cobb.

Catcher Christian Vazquez, one of the hottest hitters in the majors over the last two months, was batting second, the first time in his career he’s batted higher than sixth. He’s 6-for-8 off Cobb.

Brock Holt was once again playing second base.

Kelly impresses

Joe Kelly might have needed this one.

After posting a 7.04 ERA from July 9 through Sept. 14, Kelly’s status in the Red Sox’ bullpen was becoming unclear. But his three perfect innings on just 33 pitches to keep Friday’s game tied in extra innings left Farrell impressed.

“We’ve seen Joe incorporate a little bit of a hesitation on his delivery to a quick pitch,” Farrell said. “As he’s understood to eliminate that and repeat his delivery, that’s allowed him to command the baseball, particularly with his secondary pitches. He was as sharp and as powerful as we’ve seen him, maybe in any time in our uniform.”

Blake’s back

Blake Swihart was behind the plate on Friday for the first time in a major league game since last April.

He caught seven innings off the bench and “did a very good job,” Farrell said.

Swihart’s presence on the roster and comfort behind the dish could allow Farrell to be more aggressive in his use of Vazquez off the bench on days he doesn’t start, or as the designated hitter when Sandy Leon is behind the plate.