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Farrell explains decision to take Sale out in 9th

by: Rob Bradford on Thu, 04/20/2017 - 5:28pm

TORONTO — The first sign that Chris Sale probably didn’t want to come out of the game after the eighth inning was where Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis had to find the starter.

The lunch room.

Thursday afternoon’s game between the Red Sox and Blue Jays was in a scoreless tie. Sale had thrown 102 pitches (80 strikes), having struck out 13 and walked just one. So while the Red Sox went to bat in the ninth, the pitcher adjourned to the area that was about as far away from the dugout as a player can get during the game.

It wasn’t far enough away.

After the Red Sox took a 1-0 lead on Xander Bogaerts’ two-out single (which was immediately followed by a one-minute, 54-second review of a tag at second), Red Sox manager John Farrell chose to end Sale’s day and bring on closer Craig Kimbrel.

“He probably figured we were going to ask him,” joked Willis.

“I came in and literally had to go all the way down to the food room just to ask how he felt, how his legs were. He was adamant that he was good. He was ready to keep throwing. I got back in the dugout and I told John. But once we took the lead, as good as Craig has been the last few times out, it made sense,”

“I’m going to want the ball in that situation 10 times out of nine,” Sale said. “It is what it is. Do I want to? Yeah. But at the end of the day, he’s the manager and makes the calls. Check the book. Craig’s been pretty damn good back there.”

The move back-fired, with Kimbrel allowing a solo homer off the bat of Kendrys Morales on just the closer’s second pitch, an 96 mph fastball.

After the game, Farrell explained his thinking.

“It was a tough decision, but one where, we take the lead, we’ve got Craig Kimbrel, who’s thrown the baseball extremely well,” he said. “He’s been dominant in his own right. He’s well-rested. After kind of a long inning after we get a challenge review, we score that run late in the inning, felt it was time to turn it over to a guy that was fresh and powerful. Unfortunately, the second pitch goes out of the ballpark. But we’ve responded as we’ve done many different times where either the game’s been tied late or we’ve had to come from behind, and we did it again today.”

As it turned out, the manager explained the delay caused by the review of Bogaerts’ sliding into second ultimately might have been the tipping point.

“The additional time, yeah, that was part of the decision,” Farrell said.

Farrell also noted that even if the Red Sox hadn’t tied the game in the ninth, there was a strong chance Kimbrel — who hadn’t pitched since Monday — would be called upon.

“We had talked about it and actually had Kimbrel warming up in the event that … knowing that they’ve used their closer already, likely that Kimbrel’s in that game as well,” said the manager of his closer, who would go on to strike out five of the six batters he faced.

“It’s not an easy decision, but when you have a guy like Kimbrel and how he’s throwing the baseball the last few times out, that’s why he’s here,” Willis said. “It didn’t work out, but more times than not it does.”

The 102 pitches would ultimately be the lowest total of Sale’s four starts this season, with the lanky lefty totaling 104, 108 and 111 pitches, respectively, leading up to this start.

Coming into the game, Morales was 5-for-25 against Sale, and had gone 1-for-3 this time around, singling in his most recent at-bat. The switch-hitter had faced Kimbrel just one other time, getting hit by a pitch.

Fortunately for the Red Sox, Mookie Betts’ bases-loaded double with two outs in the 10th inning landed Kimbrel with the win and some solace for the team.

“I didn’t want to lose the game. I still had a job to do,” Kimbrel said. “Carl came through and told me if we scored some runs I was going back out. I want to go back out in a tie ballgame. Just that frustration. I gave up the game. I felt like it was my job to keep the game close and keep it going. Guys did a good job, great at-bats. Mookie got a big hit. It was a great ballgame.”