Boston Red Sox 2017 review: Chris Sale was dominant until he wasn’t

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 09: Chris Sale
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 09: Chris Sale /

Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale came as advertised, but that dominance wilted down the stretch and into the postseason when it really mattered. 

Chris Sale came as advertised in 2017.  Acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Chicago White Sox, the Boston Red Sox ace dominated on the mound in a fashion that the team or fans haven’t seen since the days of one Pedro Martinez.

The 28-year-old Sale didn’t let the bright spotlight of Boston sway his performance in any way.  With a fastball and slider that completely baffles entire Major League lineups, the lefty went 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and led the entire league with 308 strikeouts in just 214 1/3 innings.

With injuries to starting pitchers David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, along with the struggles of Rick Porcello, Price took the ball with such a command that those players weren’t missed as much as they would’ve been any other season.

For that reason alone, the Boston Red Sox ace finished in the top five for the fifth straight season in American League Cy Young Award votes.  This season, he came in second to Cleveland’s Corey Kluber.  With the dominance, he exploded off the mound with during his first 24 starts, he would’ve ran away with the award hadn’t he tailed off towards the end.

A tale of two Sales

BOSTON, MA – OCTOBER 09: Chris Sale
BOSTON, MA – OCTOBER 09: Chris Sale /

Speaking of that first 24 starts, Chris Sale was simply spectacular.  Despite the team’s lack of run production during a few of his starts, the Cy Young runner up was 14-4 with a 2.41 ERA.  He had a history-making stretch of games where he struck out 10 or more batters and on a competitive front was as fierce on the mound as they came.

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Towards the end of the season, however, Sale’s dominance on the mound began to sputter.  His 3-4 record and 4.30 ERA in his final eight starts was an indication that he was burned out.

Unfortunately for the Boston Red Sox, those struggles trickled into the postseason.  Not only did he struggle in Game 1 in Houston, he ultimately gave up the tying and winning run in the Divisional round clinching Game 4.

Despite how he ended the season, Sale put the kind of buzz back in Fenway park in 2017 that can’t be ignored.  With pitching 10 games in which he didn’t allow a single run, a Chris Sale start was basically penciled in as a win during those first 24 starts.

Not only did he deliver a mastery on the mound, he was an intimidating force that rubbed off on fellow starting pitchers Eduardo Rodriguez and Drew Pomeranz.

Final grade

In 2017, Chris Sale was like a student who aced every test, but put up a C on the final exam.  Whether it was fatigue or a mental lapse, Sale’s tail off towards the end of the season and into the playoffs will be the last things many fans remember.

Next: Boston Red Sox 2017 player review: Drew Pomeranz silenced the critics

Due to his dominance during the first stretch of the season, it is hard to give Sale anything but an A+.  However, due to his struggles towards the end of the season and into the playoffs, that grade dips to an A-.