Sale makes first appearance since 2019; Sox pound O’s 16-2

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BOSTON – Chris Sale wanted to take it all in. He has a new outlook on his big league career.

Bolstered by Sale’s first major league appearance in two years, the Boston Red Sox hit five homers while pounding Baltimore 16-2 on Saturday, handing the Orioles their 10th straight loss.

“When I stepped out of the dugout, I knew there was going to be something, I wasn’t expecting all that,” Sale said. “I was just trying to soak in moments. This isn’t going to last forever.”

The 32-year-old Sale completed his return from Tommy John surgery by pitching five innings, giving up two runs on consecutive homers by Austin Hays and Trey Mancini in the third. Relying mostly on his sharp slider, the lanky left-hander struck out eight and walked none.

“Today was a special day for me and a lot of other people,” he said. “Like I said, this game was ripped out of my hands. I had a hole in my chest for two years. I’ll be completely honest, I took days for granted. … Through all of this I’ve had a huge perspective change. I can tell you one thing, I’m not wasting another day of my big league career.”

Rafael Devers got Boston off to a fast start with a three-run homer in the first against Jorge Lopez (3-13). J.D. Martinez hit a three-run homer and Bobby Dalbec added a solo shot during a seven-run fifth inning – right after Sale left to a loud ovation.

Dalbec hit his second solo homer an inning later, and Hunter Renfroe connected in the eighth.

When Sale (1-0) finished the fifth, he was greeted with a handshake, then a hug from manager Alex Cora.

“It was a good feeling, man” Cora said. “I haven’t had that feeling in a while. I know ’19 was a grind for him, spring training through the season, it was really hard. … I will never forget that moment when we got back to the clubhouse (today).”

Sale last pitched in the majors when he started on Aug. 13, 2019. The seven-time All-Star had surgery on his 31st birthday – March 30, 2020 – and missed last year’s pandemic-shortened season.

Sale’s return created an electric atmosphere on a steamy afternoon. Many of the fans were on their feet when Hays foul-tipped Sale’s 94.2 mph first pitch.

“He was amazing. He was great,” Cora said. “Today was a special day for this organization, what he went through, him grinding through the the whole process and not feeling good about himself because he wasn’t able to contribute for the first time in his career.”

Devers finished with four RBIs. Alex Verdugo hit four singles for Boston, and Kike Hernandez scored four times.

The Orioles have been outscored 98-32 during their losing streak. It’s their second-longest this season, behind a 14-gamer.

“We haven’t pitched very well as of late and we haven’t scored a ton of runs either,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “It was nice to see Hays and Mancini hit a couple of homers there. We were 14 runs short.”

WARMUP MOMENTS

When Sale walked to the bullpen to warm up, he was greeted with cheers. Many fans clamored for a good look, trying to get near the bullpen, and were taking cell-phone photos and videos, cheering nearly every pitch. When he was done, he gave catcher Christian Vazquez a big hug before pumping fists with the rest of the members of the team out there and walking to the dugout to a big ovation.

“I don’t know if I felt one step out to the bullpen. It was amazing,” Sale said.

TOP HEAVY

Boston’s first four hitters started the game 11 for 11 with seven RBIs and eight runs before they made an out.

MILESTONE DAY

Boston’s Xander Bogaerts made his 1,000th start at shortstop. He went 3 for 3, scored twice and drove in two runs.

SERIES BREAKER

Boston captured its first series since taking three of four from the Yankees from July 22-25.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Orioles: OF Cedric Mullins, who has a 20-game hitting streak, got the day off. . Hyde said LHP Bruce Zimmermann had a “training room accident,” explaining he sprained his ankle doing exercises.

Red Sox: Cora gave OF/DH Kyle Schwarber the day off after he made his debut a night earlier. “We’ve got to take care of him,” Cora said. Schwarber was out with a strained right hamstring since July 2 and missed two weeks after he was acquired from Washington. Cora said he’ll be in the lineup Sunday and, after the club is off Monday, play in one or two games of a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. … Vazquez was reinstated from the bereavement list and was behind the plate. . Sale was activated from the 60-day injured list before the game with C Connor Wong and RHP Yacksel Rios both optioned to Triple-A.

UP NEXT

Rookie left-hander Keegan Akin (0-6, 8.23 ERA) is slated to start for the Orioles in the series finale on Sunday against Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodriguez (8-6, 5.24 ERA).

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.