Chris Sale described tomorrow night’s start in Game 1 of the American League Division Series as “fun.” For the record, Sale did watch the Yankees manhandle the Oakland Athletics and, yes, he is fully aware of the long history that precedes the upcoming series opener.
These two teams have played 2,234 games, the Yankees have won 1,200 and the Red Sox 1,018 wins (and 14 ties). The postseason history has been full of joy and pain in both sides.
The Red Sox narrowly won the 2018 regular season series, 10-9, with the Yankees winning six of nine in New York and Boston winning seven of 10 at Fenway Park.
“What else do you want?” asked Sale at today’s press conference. “You got the Yankees and the Red Sox in the playoffs playing against each other. One of the biggest rivalries in sports ever. It’s what we signed up for; a lot of passion, a lot of heated rivalries. If you can’t get excited for that, I think you’re doing the wrong thing.”
The only downside: It’s a best-of-five series.
CHRIS SALE Q&A
It’s a new year, different lineup. You’re pitching at home. Is there anything you can take away from your first postseason start last year that is at all applicable to your start tomorrow night?
CHRIS SALE: It’s the same game, strike 1, out 1, 27 outs. But pitching in the postseason I think everyone knows is a little bit different. Last year I got my feet wet. Didn’t do too well. But sometimes you learn from the bad more than the good.
After your last start you talked about some mechanical things specifically with your extension. How have you been able to address that in the time since?
CHRIS SALE: The extended period of time allowed me to get a little more work in, like I said. I was able to get off the mound a couple of times and work on that, work on using my legs, driving a little bit more. Getting a little more rotational with my lower half and staying stronger with my top half. And just trying to sharpen the tools. Work on both sides of the plate up and down, mixing speeds, and staying strong.
Chris, can you talk about the last couple of days, how the rain impacted that Tuesday and then the decision to go back out on the mound the next day. Can you take us through those couple of days?
CHRIS SALE: I just want to get on the actual mound outside. It was raining all day Tuesday, not kind of the best day for baseball activity on the field. So we had to do what we had to do to get our work in there. Wednesday I just felt like, hey, I want to get off the mound outside, and like I said get some more work in. We had enough time to build up to this. And I had plenty of rest. So you still have to stay sharp.
A lot was made about your velocity in the last start being a season low. Do you attribute that to some of the mechanical issues? Is it at all related to building up arm strength after the time you missed? And can you be effective at 92, 93, wherever you might be on Friday?
CHRIS SALE: If I take the mound I expect to win. I don’t care what I have on a given day, I should be able to find a way with whatever I have. In terms of what that was, it’s a game, what are you going to do? This is sport. This is baseball. You have to find a way with whatever you have on any given day, and roll with it.
Everything you’ve done since you’ve been coming back has been geared towards this. How much are you looking forward to this opportunity that you get the ball in Game 1 for your team at home?
CHRIS SALE: This is everything we show up for. We don’t play the game for anything else. Personal stats, wins in the regular season are obviously what get us here. And winning games and winning the division and having the record and all that. We appreciate it, don’t get me wrong. We worked hard for that. We grinded for that, and we earned it. But now is the crunch time. You guys know. We know what’s ahead of us. And we know what we have to do. So from when we show up in Spring Training, this is the only goal. This is it. This is what we’re here to do. This is everything we’ve worked for. This is the late nights, the early mornings, the travel — everything.
Has it been just unsettling not having your normal routine the last few weeks of the season?
CHRIS SALE: It’s still baseball. I’ve prepared myself and I have had a lot of help getting there. I’m not worried about this or that. I know I’ve got somewhere around 100 pitches to cover, and it’s going to be everything I’ve got in all those pitches.
What was your reaction when you knew you’d be facing the Yankees?
CHRIS SALE: It’s fun. What else do you want? You got the Yankees and the Red Sox in the playoffs playing against each other. One of the biggest rivalries in sports ever. It’s what we signed up for; a lot of passion, a lot of heated rivalries. If you can’t get excited for that, I think you’re doing the wrong thing.