BOSTON — Boston manager Alex Cora has talked for weeks about wanting to have his pitchers “trending up” as the Red Sox head into the postseason.

But during Wednesday’s doubleheader against the lowly Baltimore Orioles, Boston’s best pitchers sure looked like they were trending downward.

In Game 1, David Price gave up two homers and walked three batters in the second inning, bringing him to five homers and seven walks in his last two starts. In Game 2, Chris Sale was out of whack, showing diminished velocity for the second outing in a row as Baltimore scored three times in 4 2/3 innings.

Boston’s key bullpen pieces struggled even more, with Matt Barnes (3 earned runs, 4 hits and a walk) and Craig Kimbrel (4 ER, 3 BB) allowing seven earned runs while recording one out each.

Cora said after Game 2 that he was not concerned with how his pitchers performed Wednesday, but did cite a flaw in Sale’s mechanics as the reason for the lack of velocity. Sale’s four-seam fastball averaged just 90.2 mph on the day, the slowest of his career.

“It seems like there’s something mechanically going on,” Cora said. “He’s not firing his hips the way he usually does.”

Both Cora and Sale said there were no issues with the lefty’s bothersome shoulder in his outing Wednesday. Instead, Sale said the issue was in his delivery – namely, his inability to drive off his lower half and create torque.

“I think we know where we’re at and what this is about,” Sale said. “Things like this happen. You get out of whack and you’ve got to find a way to get back in that groove.”

With only four games remaining in the regular season, the plan for Sale will be to throw a simulated game or live batting practice Monday as he gears up for a likely Game 1 start in the American League Division Series on Friday Oct. 5. The Sox have not yet mapped out a plan for him or Price yet and are expected to in the coming days.

Sale said that being “107 wins into the season with October ahead” isn’t the time to panic, but Wednesday’s results said otherwise. The Red Sox ace is throwing slower than ever before in his career while coming back from shoulder inflammation and their No. 2 starter is showing signs of the streakiness that his marked his Boston tenure. Potentially even more concerning is that the team’s top two relievers (one of which doesn’t look fully healthy after an extended absence due to hip troubles) had trouble getting outs against the worst team in baseball.

With eight days left until Game 1 of the ALDS against either the Yankees or Athletics, the Red Sox better hope there’s enough time for all four of their best pitchers to get back on track.

“Once those lights flick on in October, I’ll be there,” Sale said.

The Red Sox better hope the best versions of Price, Barnes and Kimbrel join him.

RELIEVER TYLER THORNBURG has effectively been shut down for the rest of the season, Cora said Wednesday.

Thornburg last pitched Sept. 14 against the Mets, allowing three earned runs in 0.2 innings in an 8-0 loss. His struggles with command, along with his inability to bounce back effectively after the outing, led to the decision to stay away from him for the rest of the year.

“There’s no need to push him hard,” Cora said. “For us, we’re happy with everything he did throughout the season to get to the point where he was competing at this level.”

Thornburg returned to the majors after a year-and-a-half absence on July 6 and made 25 appearances in his return from thoracic outlet syndrome. He posted a 5.63 ERA and 6.03 FIP in 24 innings, showing promise especially during a six-game scoreless stretch from July 22 to Aug. 5.

The hope is that a “normal” offseason for Thornburg without rehab can lead into him being an important bullpen piece for the Sox in 2019.

“He’s excited about (the offseason) even though he’s frustrated about this,” Cora said. “It’s all different. It’s not that you go to the offseason for rehab. You go through your normal routine and you do all your baseball activities. Going into spring training, there’s no hesitation.”

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.