Red Sox fans should breathe a sigh of relief after Chris Sale shutout the Tampa Bay Rays for six innings last night, while striking out eight to bring his strikeout total for the year to 278. After losing three of his last four starts and not looking like himself in three of them, he looked almost like the Chris Sale who won 14 and lost just four to start the season.
Since he became a starter in 2012, Sale has had a history of poor performance in the month of September. In that five year period, despite winning 70 while losing just 47, he was 7-13 in September, never winning more games than he lost during that month. From April through August, in that period, he won 63 and lost only 24 with a 2.97 ERA. In the month of September, his ERA ballooned to 3.87 as he gave up 74 runs in 172.1 innings over 27 starts.
Last year, while still with the White Sox, he threw 226 2/3 innings, the most of his career, and was 2-3 in September with a 4.39 ERA. He had thrown 185 2/3 innings before September last year, the highest in his career. This year, he had thrown 172.1 innings entering September.
After September 3rd, when he lost to the Yankees, giving up three homers and lasting just 4 1/3 innings, there was concern that he might be tiring. He had an extra day’s rest between starts this time and he looked much better.
With a four and one half game lead with just 20 games to go, barring a collapse by the rest of the staff, Farrell should be able to reduce his innings. With a fresh Chris Sale, the Red Sox have as good a shot as anyone in the Playoffs but, if he pitches as he has after August in previous years, the Red Sox will not go far in the Post Season.