The Red Sox finally addressed their fifth starter problem on Saturday by acquiring Andrew Cashner from the Orioles, but it's not going to mean anything if he keeps out-pitching Chris Sale.
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Cashner is about the best the Red Sox could've expected amidst an ownership mandate not to blast the payroll any further out of the water. The big right-hander is producing one of the best seasons of his 10-year career after somehow going 9-3 for the woeful O's with a 3.83 ERA in 17 starts. The Red Sox say a move away from his sinker in favor of a fastball-slider-changeup arsenal has made all the difference for a pitcher who went 4-15 with a 5.29 ERA last year.
That's all well and good -- Trader Dave Dombrowski aggressively strikes again! -- but he and the Red Sox are effectively helpless to address what is turning out to be the *real* issue of 2019, and that is Sale.
The erstwhile ace once again had little choice but to publicly berate himself following an 11-2 pasting at the hands of the Dodgers on Saturday night. Following an outstanding start from Eduardo Rodriguez in Friday's series-opening 8-1 victory, Sale halted 24 hours of momentum by failing to complete five innings.
His velocity, which started in the upper-90s, was back down to April's 92-93 mph by the middle frames, leaving us to ask, yet again, what the hell is happening to the left-hander with the $150 million extension that doesn't even kick in until next year?
"It's the same old stuff," a frustrated Sale told reporters. "Just not getting it done. Just making bad pitches. Not keeping the ball in the yard, not getting shutdown innings when I need to. Just the same stuff as before.
"I'm going out there every fifth day and getting my ass kicked, what do you think? It's not fun. I'm still working, I'm still grinding. I'm not going to give up, but it's tough going out there every day being a liability for your team."
That Sale is as clear-eyed about his predicament as anyone doesn't make it any better. He hasn't won a start at Fenway Park in more than a year and the Red Sox are twice as likely to lose when he takes the mound (6-13 in his 19 starts) as win. He's 3-9 with a 4.27 ERA, and that pretty accurately sums up how he has pitched, especially considering what's expected of him.
The Orioles have only won 28 games all season, and they still managed to go 11-6 in Cashner's 17 starts. Were Sale producing at even that level, the Red Sox would comfortably lead the wild card race and reside within shouting distance of the division-leading Yankees.
Instead, they're nine games out of first and if the season ended today, wouldn't even be in the playoffs. They not only trail the Rays and A's in the wild card race, they're looking up at the Indians and are only a half game ahead of the Rangers, too.
Is Andrew Cashner going to fix that? The Red Sox acquired him to reinforce the back of the rotation, but maybe that's actually Chris Sale's job at this point. Maybe Cashner belongs closer to the top of the rotation.
If that's the case, say goodbye to this season.
"I wanted to come out firing, wanted to come out and get off on the right foot, especially after a big win (Friday) night," Sale said. "Eddie shoved and we swung the bat well, we played a great game last night. Had some momentum. Even leading into the break we had some momentum. Wasn't able to get it done, yet again."
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