Reinforcements continue to make their way to the Boston Red Sox, with ace Chris Sale set to take the mound for his first start in two years against the visiting Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.
Sale last pitched in a major league game on Aug. 13, 2019, before he sustained an elbow injury that would eventually lead to his undergoing Tommy John surgery during the spring of 2020. After sitting out all of the pandemic-shortened campaign, the left-hander makes his highly anticipated return to a Red Sox team looking to get back on track following a 4-12 stretch.
Boston received a boost Friday when Kyle Schwarber made his team debut as part of an 8-1 victory over Baltimore to kick off the three-game series. Schwarber, sidelined by a hamstring injury since the Red Sox acquired him from the Washington Nationals ahead of the July trade deadline, finished with two runs scored on two walks.
Sale’s return figures to receive even greater billing after All-Star showings in his first two seasons with the club. Manager Alex Cora has said he will take a cautious approach with his star arm even though he punched out 35 over 20 dominant innings during his minor league rehab assignment.
“This is not only for the present,” said Cora. “He’s a huge part of the future.”
The Orioles will send right-hander Jorge Lopez (3-12, 5.75 ERA) to the mound as they look to snap a nine-game losing streak.
Despite Friday’s win, Boston remains five games back of the Tampa Bay Rays for first place in the American League East. In the victory, Bobby Dalbec homered and drove in three runs as part of a 3-for-4 performance that increased his RBI count to eight in his last two games.
“Today was his best game overall,” said Cora of Dalbec, who has struggled with contact over multiple stretches this season. “. . . Hopefully this is the beginning of something great.”
Little has been going great for Baltimore of late outside outfielder Cedric Mullins, who extended his hitting streak to a career-long 20 games with a first-inning single as part of the series opener.
The Orioles’ losing streak is their second-longest of the season after 14 straight defeats in May.
“Anytime you run into a little bit of a skid it’s tough, but we have a good group of veterans who keep the emotions in check and keep the guys on the right path, always looking forward,” said rookie starter Spenser Watkins after taking the loss in Game 1.
Sale has dominated Baltimore throughout his career, going 8-2 with a 2.57 ERA in 20 games (14 starts) against the club. He’s struck out 133 in 91 innings during that span.
Lopez, coming off back-to-back quality starts, will face Boston for the third time this year after mixed results in his first two appearances. He was rocked for seven runs over four innings in April before holding the Red Sox to one run in 5 2/3 innings in a no-decision back in May.
Lifetime, Lopez is 0-1 with an 8.62 ERA in four outings (two starts) versus the club.
–Field Level Media