Things were going right for the Boston Red Sox early on Friday at Tropicana Field. Boston took a 2-0 first-inning lead against Tampa Bay Rays rookie righty Shane Baz in Game 2 of the ALDS on Friday (live updates here). Four of the first five batters reached base, and the Red Sox received RBI singles from Xander Bogaerts and Alex Verdugo.
The Rays answered with a five-spot against Chris Sale in the bottom of the first inning, including four on Jordan Luplow's first career grand slam. Just like that, Boston's 2-0 lead became a 5-2 deficit. Yandy Díaz chipped in an RBI single earlier in the inning.
According to YES Network researcher James Smyth, Luplow is the seventh player in postseason history to hit a first-inning grand slam, joining Max Muncy (2020 NLDS Game 3), Ryan Roberts (2011 NLDS Game 4), JD Drew (2007 ALCS Game 6), Aramis Ramirez (2003 NLCS Game 4), Bobby Richardson (1960 World Series Game 3), and Elmer Smith (1920 World Series Game 5).
The pitch selection on the grand slam was questionable. Sale tried to climb the ladder with three straight fastballs and didn't show Luplow his slider. Give Luplow credit, the 0-2 fastball was elevated and he did a good job going up to get it. Still, Sale's slider is lethal, and in a strikeout situation (0-2 count with the bases loaded), you'd think they'd at least take a shot with it. Apparently not.
Chris Sale's four-seam swing/miss percentage against RHH since joining the Red Sox:— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) October 8, 2021
2017 - 14.3%
2018 - 13.6%
2019 - 12.6%
2021 - 11.8%
Tonight: 13 four-seamers to righties, seven swings, no swings/misses, two hits (including the homer), and a walk.
Randy Arozarena and Wander Franco opened the game with singles on Sale's first two pitches, and five of the first six batters Sale faced reached base. There is plenty of familiarity here (Sale faced Tampa twice in September, allowing seven runs in 9 2/3 innings) and the Rays hit him like they knew what was coming.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora pulled the plug after the first inning, so Sale finished with five runs allowed in just the one inning. Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez, Boston's Game 1 starter, combined to allow seven runs in 2 2/3 innings. They faced 17 baserunners and retired only eight. Boston, however, got five strong innings from Tanner Houck in relief, and the offense hit a franchise playoff record five homers as Boston came back for a 14-6 win.
Still, Sale's outing is concerning as the Red Sox try to navigate the remainder of the series.
Sale is the first American League pitcher to allow at least five runs in no more than one inning in a postseason start since Athletics righty Gil Heredia allowed six runs and got one out against the Yankees in Game 5 of the 2000 ALDS.
Game 2 was Sale's 10th major-league start back from Tommy John surgery. He made nine regular season starts this year, pitching to a 3.16 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 42 2/3 innings while being kept on a short leash (averaged 82 pitches per start).