The first game of the American League Division Series is on Oct. 5 and Chris Sale has thrown one inning since Aug. 12.
That would seem to be a significant problem for the Red Sox and their ace lefthander. But if manager Alex Cora is concerned, he’s hiding it well.
“He should be fine,” Cora said on Saturday before the Sox beat the Mets, 5-3.
But Sale needs to complete three innings against the Mets on Sunday afternoon or risk being limited when the postseason starts.
Cora said the hope is for Sale to get up and down at least three times, if not four, on Sunday. For pitchers, repeating innings is what builds endurance more than simply the number of pitches.
“He feels great. . . . Health-wise he’s OK,” Cora said. “Now it’s just a matter of him, for us, to build up.”
If Sale pitches every five days, he would pitch again on Friday in Cleveland and Sept. 26 in Baltimore. If he completes three innings on Sunday, it’s reasonable to think he could get to six innings in his final start of the regular season.
That would clear him for seven innings in Game 1, which is standard for any starter. But that process has to gain steam on Sunday.
Sale is 12-4 with a 1.96 earned run average over 24 starts and 147 innings. He no longer has enough innings to qualify as the American League leader in ERA. A pitcher needs one inning for every game his team has played.
For a few innings at least, Sunday’s game will a compelling matchup as Sale faces Mets ace Jacob deGrom.
DeGrom has a 1.71 ERA, the lowest in baseball, and a 0.95 WHIP. Only once in 29 starts has he allowed more than three earned runs and that was four. Opponents have a .528 OPS.
But the 30-year-old righthander is 8-9 due to a lack of run support. DeGrom has allowed two or fewer runs in 21 starts and is somehow only 7-4 in those games.
Cora does not feel deGrom’s record should have any bearing on his Cy Young Award chances.
“He’s been amazing,” Cora said. “Forget the record. You start looking at the real numbers and what he’s doing is incredible. It’s incredible.
“I don’t know the other guys in contention, but that’s going to be tough to beat.”
DeGrom has faced the Sox once in his career, on Aug. 29, 2015 at Citi Field in New York. He went six innings, allowed two runs and struck out 10.
Sign of respect
Dustin Pedroia presented Mets captain David Wright with a No. 5 off the Green Monster scoreboard just before New York took batting practice. The two were teammates with Team USA in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
Wright is ending his career after this season because of a back injury and will play at least one final game when the Mets return home.
Wright was touched by Pedroia’s gift.
“He’s certainly been one of my favorite players to watch,” Wright told Mets reporters. “I don’t necessarily collect a lot of stuff. The stuff that I do collect is from players that I respect. . . . He’s at the top of that list.”
Noah Syndergaard went inside the Green Monster on Friday afternoon then pitched a terrific game against the Red Sox a few hours later, throwing seven shutout innings. He allowed three hits, all singles, walked three and struck out six.
He also made a little news after the game, too.
At 11:37 p.m., Syndergaard took to Twitter and wrote, “So Fenway was surreal ballpark to pitch in from a childhood dream perspective . . . as visiting pitcher on a team and a city I love.”
Syndergaard included the hashtag #dontfreakout to further assure Mets fans he was not lobbying to join the Red Sox.
Red Sox fans, of course, replied to the tweet with their recruiting pitches.
Syndergaard cannot become a free agent until after the 2021 season. “Thor” is 36-21 with a 2.99 ERA over four seasons.
Sliding into trouble
Christian Vazquez broke a finger sliding into second base in July. It’s fortunate for the Red Sox that other players have not been injured given the team’s dangerous propensity for sliding headfirst into bases, even first base.
Andrew Benintendi narrowly avoided injury in the third inning on Friday night when he dove into first base. Syndergaard, who was covering first, nearly stepped on his left hand.
“Nobody stopped me in 13 years [as a player]. I always went headfirst and I paid the price,” Cora said. “It’s a tough one. I know what they’re talking about it.”
Cora believes sliding is something the team needs to address in spring training next season.
“We’ve got to find out how we can avoid that,” he said.
Red Sox minor leaguers are coached not to slide headfirst, too. But it doesn’t sink in.
“For some reason when they get here it’s like, ‘This is how we’re going to get there,’ ” Cora said. “You can keep telling them and telling them and telling them.”
Eduardo Nunez, who left Thursday’s game with a sore right knee, did not play again on Saturday and is questionable for Sunday. But he is probable for Tuesday afternoon against the Yankees in New York. “I’ll be fine,” Nunez said. “Everything is going right.” . . . Sandy Leon was 0 for 2 before being replaced by a pinch hitter. He is hitless in his last 29 at-bats dating back to Aug. 23 and is 1 for 39 in his last 17 games. . . . The Sox are 11 for 11 in stolen bases the last five games . . . Rick Porcello has 50 wins the last three seasons. Only Corey Kluber (54) and Max Scherzer (53) have more . . . The Red Sox honored their minor league award winners on the field before the game. Offensive and defensive player of the year Bobby Dalbec will next play in the Arizona Fall League. The 23-year-old hit .257 with a .919 OPS, 32 home runs, and 109 RBIs in 129 games. “I was able to take out excess movement pre-pitch and be consistent with being on time and being in a ready position,” he said. Dalbec also improved his play at third base and feels that is where he will stay moving forward.