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Chad Finn

One lousy loss is no reason for Red Sox fans to panic

Eduardo Nunez (left) and Rafael Devers (right) packed up following the final out of Thursday’s 12-4 loss.Jim Davis /Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Proposal to you from the sporadically visited Boston Department of Sports Common Sense:

No panicking in the streets near Fenway, Red Sox fans, OK? At least until the ball club is back from its 11-game season-opening road trip to defend itself.

One game — one lousy, ugly, suspense-free game — is not enough to be wrestling Bob Lobel for his panic button. You know this.

Do we have a deal?

C’mon, say it.

It’s just one game. One loss.

The Sox lost their opener last year, remember. One-hundred-nineteen wins later, it turned out rather OK.

And they lost their openers in 2004 and 2007, defeats that did not derail championship seasons.


If not for the 2013 Red Sox’ opening 8-2 win over the Yankees (Jacoby Ellsbury led the way with three hits), we’d be rationalizing right now that an Opening Day loss actually heralds special achievements.

There have been so many parades around here in recent years that I’m starting to lose track of which ones happened when, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t that long ago that the conquering 2018 Red Sox were celebrated in these same streets.

So say it.

Potential panickers-in-the-streets, many wearing Dustin Pedroia jerseys, reluctantly:

“[Sigh.] OK. Deal. But Eovaldi had better win, or else.”

In case you were lucky enough to fall asleep before it was over, here’s the brief synopsis of the Red Sox’ 12-4 loss to the Mariners Thursday night in Seattle.

The Red Sox jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Chris Sale struck out three batters in the first, meaning the last six outs he had recorded — including the final three outs in the clinching Game 5 of the World Series — were via the K.

And then Sale suddenly pitched as if he were paying some weird homage to 1981 Frank Tanana and the Sox got pummeled by a no-name Seattle lineup.


No, a meandering West Coast butt-kicking is not the ideal way to begin the season, but it makes a fine case for a pitch clock or maybe a mercy rule. It’s too bad sometimes that running time is not possible in baseball.

Especially when you’re moping about the ace getting shelled. Sale was done after three innings and 76 pitches, having allowed seven runs on six hits, two walks, and a hit batter. He gave up three homers — two to Tim Beckham — while failing to get a swing and miss on the 30 fastballs he threw.

He did not come out for the fourth, his stint on mound lasting approximately as long as Greg Schiano’s tenure as Patriots defensive coordinator.

It was the worst start of his two-years-plus-one-start Red Sox career. The timing of the struggles — he signed a five-year, $145 million contract extension less than a week ago — and questions that still follow him after an excellent but injury-altered 2018 season might cause some understandable anxiety among Sox loyalists.

I’m not going to harp on it now, but I did write this even before Sale signed his extension, which I really hope isn’t an overcorrection for blowing the Jon Lester negotiations five years ago: Sale is the biggest question mark with the Red Sox this season, even more so than the bullpen.

(Annoyed aside: Can we stop talking about Joe Kelly as if he were some kind of major loss? He drove us nuts since he got here in 2014 with his Nuke LaLoosh act. He had an ERA over 8.00 in three different months last year. Sure, he was outstanding in the playoffs, and that got him a fat pile of cash from the Dodgers. Anyone expecting consistency from him forgot his history. Might give that Kimbrel guy a call, though, just to check in.)


Sale pitched just 32⅓ innings last year — postseason included — from July 27 on. While he punctuated the World Series with a scene we’ll never forget, driving dastardly Manny Machado to his knees with a vicious Series-ending slider, too often he looked . . . well, an awful lot like he did Thursday night: velocity down, slider flat, command refusing to cooperate.

Alex Cora and the Red Sox’ brain trust were cautious with the starting pitchers this spring, wisely so given their workload in the playoffs. But easing into it — Sale had just two spring starts — might lead to a slower start to the season as the starters continue to build up their arms.

It’s going to be reassuring when we see legitimate evidence that Sale’s mysterious shoulder injury from last season is no longer an issue, that the patient approach this spring is paying dividends, that his new contract is nothing more than the going rate for an extraordinary difference-making pitcher.

But one game into this thing, Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” remains associated with the 2013 Red Sox, and not these defending champs.


Don’t worry ’bout a thing?

We’ll try not to. It’s just one game.

But even those of us who hang out at the Department of Sports Common Sense recognize the truth:

We’ll know everything is gonna be all right only when the old Chris Sale finally shows up in this new season.

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn.