Chris Sale
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Red Sox pull Chris Sale after four innings

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So much for a meeting of the aces. Boston southpaw Chris Sale went toe-to-toe with Astros lefty Justin Verlander during Game 1 of the ALCS on Saturday, but neither pitcher came away looking anything like the perennial Cy Young contenders they are.

It was far worse for Sale, who toiled through four long innings of two-run, five-strikeout, 86-pitch ball in the Championship Series opener. He opened the game with an eight-pitch walk to George Springer, then set the rest of the Astros’ lineup down on nine pitches. In the second inning, nearly every batter drew a full count against the left-hander. Sale issued a seven-pitch walk to Carlos Correa, then worked a 2-2 count against Martin Maldonado before his fifth pitch, a 96-MPH fastball, grazed Maldonado’s hand and awarded him a free base.

With a third walk to Josh Reddick, the Astros had the bases loaded against Sale with two outs and All-Star slugger George Springer up to bat. Springer struck a line drive to left field — the first and only hit Sale would allow all night — and plated a pair of runs to get the Astros on the board. While no sign of injury or excessive fatigue appeared to impede Sale’s mechanics, the 29-year-old’s velocity and command continued to erode over the next two innings. He retired the side on 19 pitches in the third (and another walk, his fourth of the game) and finished off his final inning with another 17, bringing his total just four shy of 90 as he turned over the ball to right-hander Joe Kelly in the fifth.

By the end of Sale’s outing, he’d allowed two runs on one hit, four walks, and five strikeouts. Even more disconcerting: In four innings, just 50 of his 86 pitches landed for strikes. Needless to say, this isn’t the 2.11-ERA, 6.5-fWAR hurler that helped propel Boston to a franchise-best 108-win season in 2018. While Sale didn’t enter Game 1 with the strongest postseason resume, this was an uncharacteristically difficult outing for the AL East ace — and one that cast some serious doubt about the Red Sox’ ability to power through the rest of this series, too.

Padres fire Andy Green

Andy Green
Getty Images
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The Padres fired manager Andy Green on Saturday, per an official team release. Bench coach Rod Barajas will step into the position for the remaining eight games of the 2019 season.

Executive Vice President and GM A.J. Preller gave a statement in the wake of Green’s dismissal:

I want to thank Andy for his tireless work and dedication to the Padres over the last four seasons. This was an incredibly difficult decision, but one we felt was necessary at this time to take our organization to the next level and expedite the process of bringing a championship to San Diego. Our search for a new manager will begin immediately.

In additional comments made to reporters, Preller added that the decision had not been made based on the Padres’ current win-loss record (a fourth-place 69-85 in the NL West), but rather on the lack of response coming from the team.

“Looking at the performance, looking at it from an improvement standing, we haven’t seen the team respond in the last few months,” Preller said. “When you get to the point where you’re questioning where things are headed … we have to make that call.”

Since his hiring in October 2015, Green has faced considerable challenges on the Padres’ long and winding path to postseason contention. He shepherded San Diego through four consecutive losing seasons, drawing a career 274-366 record as the club extended their streak to 13 seasons without a playoff appearance. And, despite some definite strides in the right direction — including an eight-year, $144 million pact with Eric Hosmer, a 10-year, $300 million pact with superstar Manny Machado, and the development of top prospect Fernando Tatís Jr. — lingering injuries and inexplicable slumps from key players stalled the rebuild longer than the Padres would have liked.

For now, they’ll prepare to roll the dice with a new skipper in 2020, though any potential candidates have yet to be identified for the role. It won’t come cheap, either, as Green inked a four-year extension back in 2017 — one that should have seen him through the team’s 2021 campaign.