It’s time for Chris Sale to be Chris Sale

We should stop talking about Chris Sale (15-7, 2.85 ERA this season) as the likely 2017 Cy Young award winner.   Let’s start talking about his awful games against good teams for the last two months. And why Cleveland’s Cory Kluber (14-4, 2.56 ERA) will win the AL Cy Young award.

Who cares? After dropping three of four against the second place and perennial pain-in-our asses Yankees, the struggling Red Sox need their ace to be an ace once again. Since July turned to August, he’s been largely missing in action. Save his great outing against a weak Tampa team on August 8th, in which we went eight scoreless innings and struck out 13, and last week’s dominance against the hapless Jays, he has been pretty pedestrian since July.

Since the July 1st, the Sox are seven wins and five losses when Sale starts. In those 12 games, Sale has produced five wins, four losses and three no–ecisions, 75.3 IPs, 25 ERs, 115 Ks, and given up nine HRs. That’s fine for a number-three starter, but not for an ace.

Against the worst, he’s the best

Since the end of June, most of his good numbers have come against the dregs of the league – Toronto, Tampa, and a Seattle team that’s 14.5 games out of the AL West. Against likely playoffs teams in this window, four starts against NYY and two against CLE, he’s been very unimpressive: zero wins, three losses, three no decisions. Zero wins. Zero. His average line against the teams we need to worry about? Fewer than six innings and more than three and a half earned runs per start.

Sale remains our best pitcher.   But he isn’t the runaway Cy Young award winner he looked like in July. Boston’s once substantial lead in the East has been cut to 3.5 games.   This would certainly be in jeopardy if they didn’t have a soft schedule for the rest of the season. With six more games against Toronto and Tampa, and three against a terrible Cincinnati team, the Red Sox should cruise to the playoffs.

Step up or step out

To have any legitimate shot at a deep post season run, the Red Sox need to win the division. With the introduction of the second wild card and the one-game play-in between wild card teams five years ago, winning the division has taken on renewed importance. This year, more than ever for the Sox, it is paramount. It’s not that Boston can’t beat New York or anyone else in a single game in October.  Despite his recent struggles I’ll still take my chances with Sale on the mound.

But that’s the problem.  The Sox would have to go with Sale in the play-in game and then enter the divisional round with a rotation of Pomeranz, Porcello.   Then either Fister, Price or E-Rod take the mound before bringing Sale in to pitch a potential game 4. Win the division and the Sox have a significantly better rotation lined up – including getting Sale twice in a long series. Lose the division, waste Sale in a one-or-done match-up, and the future could very well come down to how well Rick Porcello, David Price, or Doug Fister pitch in an elimination game. That’s terrifying to think about.

But, if Sale doesn’t return to form and provide quality starts against good teams the rest of the year, we won’t have to worry about it.