BALTIMORE — Intellectually, starters recognize that the win has been devalued as an individual measure of performance. Still, there’s something that remains jarring for a pitcher if he has a zero under the “W” attached to his statistical profile.
Wins don’t matter on an individual level — unless you don’t have any, and perhaps more significantly, if your team doesn’t have any in the games when you’ve pitched.
“There’s something to be said,” conceded Rick Porcello, “for getting that first one.”
That being the case, Chris Sale will take the mound against the Orioles on Wednesday in a different frame of mind than he’d carried into any of his previous six starts, each of which followed a loss. His win over the White Sox last Friday — one in which he coupled a familiar pitching line (six shutout innings, 10 strikeouts) with a long-sought outcome (a personal and team win) — offered something of a sense of renewal to a pitcher who’d lamented in mid-April that he was both disappointing and embarrassing himself, his family, and his team.
“You ask Chris, he’s going to tell you he got paid a contract here to win baseball games and to stop losing streaks, to help this team win. That’s what he’s all about,” said pitching coach Dana LeVangie.
“For him to go out there and do it — and not just do it, but to dominate — that’s who he is. That in itself makes him feel a part of the team now. I think that’s important to all of us, but more important to him especially.”
LeVangie and the Red Sox are hopeful that the victory over the White Sox serves as a building block for Sale (1-5. 5.25 ERA in seven starts) moving forward, particularly giving the growing evidence of an ability to wipe out opposing hitters. Sale has 28 strikeouts in 18 innings over his last three starts, a signal that he may be on the verge of his norms.
The last few outings have shown a pitcher whose delivery has appeared to be in synch, rather than a collection of disjointed parts. At the start of the season, LeVangie feels that the timing of Sale’s delivery was off in part because of his deliberate spring buildup. In Chicago, the coordination of the different parts of a complex crossfire delivery produced the action and command to excel.
“He found it in Chicago,” said LeVangie. “To his credit, he kept going. He took ownership, which not a lot of people do. That’s one thing that he’s tremendous at. I think he’s back to being who he wants to be.”
Price plays catch
David Price on Tuesday played catch on flat ground, the first time he’d thrown since a May 2 start against the White Sox. Manager Alex Cora said that the lefthander, who was placed on the injured list on Monday (retroactive to May 3), “felt fine.” . . . Second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who had been scheduled to play on Tuesday as the first in a stretch of three consecutive days in the lineup of Double A Portland, was scratched prior to the game because of wet field conditions. Pedroia had been slated to play seven innings in advance of seven more on Wednesday and five on Thursday . . . Brian Johnson threw a simulated inning against a trio of Red Sox coaches. While he was a bit wild, Johnson said that “health-wise, I felt great.” The Red Sox plan to have him make at least one more simulated outing before considering a rehab assignment for the lefthander, who has been on the injured list since April 7 because of elbow tendinitis . . . Righthander Bryan Mata, off to an outstanding start in High A Salem (1-1, 2.15 ERA, 31 strikeouts, and 11 walks in 29⅓ innings), was placed on the injured list with a mild shoulder strain. Mata turned 20 last week.
While Jackie Bradley Jr.’s numbers entering Tuesday (.150 average, .239 OBP, .180 slugging, 29.8 percent strikeout rate) border on alarming, Cora found some reassurance by rewinding one year following Monday night’s 4-1 loss. Last May 8, Bradley struck out three times in four at-bats against the Yankees as his line sank to .173/.264/.264. He played in just two of the next eight games before rediscovering his stroke in mid-May.
Cora said that Bradley is making good decisions about the pitches to attack, but he’s been fouling off pitches that he should drive.
Still, the manager suggested that the Gold Glove center fielder is working diligently to improve his results — including early batting practice before Tuesday’s game — and that the team remains committed to him.
“We trust the guy,” said Cora of Bradley, who was hitless in two at-bats Tuesday to drop his average to .147. “He’s a guy who’s very important for us [with] what he does defensively for us. You’ve just got to be patient.”
Cora was beaming when he arrived at his pregame media availability.
“I’m going to get a new clubhouse next year!” he exclaimed, a tongue-in-cheek reaction to Liverpool’s 4-0 victory over Barcelona to advance to the Champions League finals. Liverpool FC is owned by Red Sox owner John Henry.
Cora was one of several Red Sox players who were glued to the game in the visitors’ clubhouse. Eduardo Rodriguez, a lifelong Barcelona supporter, was crestfallen.