The Boston Red Sox are in the middle of an intense Wild Card race in the American League.
After sitting at the top of the AL East for much of the season, the team is now fighting just to make the playoffs.
Left-handed ace Chris Sale is hoping to ensure that Boston won’t be home for the postseason.
Following Tommy John surgery in early 2020, Sale was on the shelf for almost a year and a half.
As of this month, he’s finally back with the team, and he’s already making a big impact.
He has made three starts so far.
Let’s take a look at how he has performed.
Grading His First Start: B+
In his first start back, Sale got the job done.
Things lined up nicely for the lefty, as he had the luxury of facing the lowly Baltimore Orioles in his return.
He tossed five innings of two-run ball, scattering six hits, walking none, and striking out eight.
Both runs came on solo shots, so Sale was certainly fortunate that those came with the bases empty.
Regardless, he turned in five quality frames, and the Red Sox ran away with a 16-2 victory.
The win came a time when Boston desperately needed one.
Grading His Second Start: A-
From a run-prevention standpoint, Sale’s second start was his best so far.
He threw five shutout innings against the Texas Rangers and fanned five.
He limited the traffic on the basepaths to five hits and a walk, and he did a nice job of stranding runners.
In the end, the Red Sox got a 6-0 win.
A good night for the Red Sox. Chris Sale goes to 2-0, Xander Bogaerts hits his 20th homer, and the Sox led off 4 of their first 6 innings with a double. Sox now 38-24 at Fenway, while the Rangers go to 14-46 on the road this season.
— Tom Caron (@TomCaron) August 21, 2021
Sale’s solid outing moved him to 2-0 on the year.
Grading His Third Start: B+
Sale looked extremely sharp in his third start.
It came against the Minnesota Twins.
Although he gave up two runs, he allowed just two hits and two walks over 5.1 innings
He fanned eight, and most impressively, he worked an immaculate inning—the third of his career.
IMMACULATE CHRIS SALE. pic.twitter.com/sDnJ6jPuso
— Red Sox (@RedSox) August 27, 2021
He exited with the lead, and Boston walked away with a dominant 12-2 victory.
All things considered, it was the most vintage-Sale performance of the year.
Red Sox fans are hoping to see a lot more of that.
Overall Grade So Far: B+
We’re going with a B+ for an overall grade, but it could just as easily be an A-.
The Red Sox are 3-0 in Sale’s starts, and he’s providing the rotation with the jolt that it desperately needed.
Is anyone aware Red Sox hold a WC spot and Chris Sale is 3-0?
— RedSox1904Champions (@Sox1904Red) August 28, 2021
The veteran hasn’t been going very deep into games, but that has been by design.
He threw just 89 pitches in his first start, 71 in his second start, and 80 in his third start.
Boston is being very careful with him.
Hopefully, he’ll start to go deeper into games as we get closer to the postseason.
One last thought: It will be interesting to see how Sale performs against quality opponents.
His first three starts all came against inferior teams.
We’ll get a really good look at the 32-year-old this coming Wednesday, as he’s set to get the ball against the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Rays are arguably the best team in the American League, and they have a stellar offense.
If Sale shuts down an elite team in Tampa Bay, we’ll know for sure that he’s all the way back.