Friday, May 23, 2014
That wasn't the case for me Thursday night as I watched Chris Sale retire the first 17 men he faced, including nine strikeouts, in his return from the disabled list against the New York Yankees.
Sale was on a strict pitch count, although Sox manager Robin Ventura refused to say what it was. But you knew Sale was approaching that predetermined figure when Sox reliever Zach Putnam was warming up in the bullpen with the Yankees batting in the top of the sixth inning and nobody on base.
I knew if Sale made it through six innings without allowing a baserunner, Ventura would remove him from the game and then we'd have the meatheads lighting up the phone lines and rioting in the streets, screaming about a missed opportunity at a perfect game. The meatheads wouldn't understand that Sale hadn't pitched a game in over a month, and it's incumbent on the Sox to be careful with their ace -- who is still without question the most valuable player the team has in its organization. No way you're going to leave a pitcher who is just back from the DL out there for 100-plus pitches in pursuit of a no-hitter. No way.
I wanted to avoid listening to that moronic debate, so I was actually relieved when New York left fielder Zoilo Almonte singled sharply to center field with two outs in the sixth inning, ending Sale's run at perfection. The Sox lefty finished off the inning with a strikeout of Jacoby Ellsbury, and that cleared the way for Ventura to go to the bullpen without any controversy about pulling a pitcher who had a perfect game going.
Putnam, Daniel Webb and Ronald Belisario combined to cover the final nine outs. The Sox beat the Yankees, 3-2, and Sale improved his season record to 4-0.
Sale's final line: Six innings pitched, 10 strikeouts, no runs, one hit, no walks, 86 pitches, 54 of them for strikes. Sale threw first-pitch strike to 13 of the 19 men he faced. He had command of all of his pitches, and New York had little chance to score while he was on the mound. Aside from Almonte's single, there was maybe one other ball hit hard against Sale the whole night.
Best of all, Sale left the mound healthy and feeling good, which is the most important thing for the Sox moving forward.