BOSTON — Red Sox ace Chris Sale made an early exit in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series against the Houston Astros.
<pSale lasted just four innings Saturday night, giving up two runs on one hit and four walks.
<pSale opened the game with an eight-pitch walk to George Springer and struggled through the first three innings with subpar stuff and location.
<pHouston took advantage in the second. Sale got two quick outs, but then walked Carlos Correa, plunked Martin Maldonado on the hand with a fastball and walked Josh Reddick. Springer followed with a hard grounder past third baseman Eduardo Nunez to put Boston ahead 2-0.
<pSale decided to go sleeveless despite a 48-degree first pitch, and it took too long for his fastball to heat up. His velocity has been a focus since a shoulder issue landed him on the disabled list in August. He returned in September but averaged just 90 mph in his final regular-season tuneup, well below his standard.
<pHe jumped back up to about 95 mph in two effective outings against the Yankees in the Division Series, but was sitting a relatively sluggish 90-93 on Saturday.
<pHis control was shaky, too, even as he perhaps took something off his fastball and slider after falling behind in counts. He threw one pitch behind Alex Bregman, and all four of his walks came in the first two innings.
<pSale had just two whiffs in the first three innings before finding a groove in the fourth. That was enough for Cora, though, who pulled Sale after 86 pitches. Sale struck out five, including Correa and Maldonado to end his outing.
<pThe 29-year-old allowed five hits and two earned runs, striking out nine over 6? innings in his ALDS Game 1 win over Yankees. He also came on in relief during Game 4, retiring all three batters he faced during the eighth inning.
<pSaturday night's start harkened back to the rough outing he had in his postseason debut in Game 1 of last season's ALDS against Houston. Sale gave up seven earned runs in the five innings he pitched in that outing, yielding a pair of home runs to Jose Altuve and another to Bregman in a loss.
<pSale came on in a relief appearance in Game 4 of that series as well, holding the Astros scoreless through four innings before allowing two runs in the Red Sox's 5-4 Game 4 loss as Houston wrapped up the series, 3-1.