OAKLAND, Calif. — Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale held the Oakland Athletics to one run in six innings on Tuesday night, but he averaged the lowest velocity of his career.

The lefty threw 25 four-seam fastballs, averaging 89.1 mph and topping out at 92 mph, per Baseball Savant. He added four two-seamers, averaging 90.6 mph and maxing out at 91.4 mph.

His previous low (minimum 10 fastballs) was 89.8 mph on July 27, 2012.

The Red Sox lost 1-0 to the A’s at Oakland Coliseum. Matt Chapman provided the only offense when he bashed an 88.8 mph four-seam fastball from Sale 374 feet to left field in the first inning.

“Zero. Zero concern,” pitching coach Dana LeVangie said. “Not at all. He dialed it up when he wanted to. It’s there. But he knows how important he is to this team. He can pitch regardless of the velocity.”

Sale dialed the velocity up higher than ever before last June and July. He topped out at 100 mph or more in four starts. But he then pitched just 29 innings during the second half. He spent two stints on the injured list with shoulder inflammation.

It’s likely the Red Sox want him to dial the velocity back this year to stay healthy for a full season and into the playoffs. But does such low velocity raise concern?

“I’m still just trying to find it,” Sale said when asked about his velocity. “I’m still working on some things with my mechanics. Trying to find my space out there. Just try to get comfortable and find a groove. I think that’s just half the battle with a pitcher, especially a starting pitcher: is finding a groove and getting comfortable. We’re still working. It’s a work in progress. But like I said, there’s no excuse. Gotta go out there and find a way.”

Red Sox Manager Alex Cora said he tries not to focus on velocity.

“Sometimes you get caught up on it,” Cora said. “And it’s like, ‘Well, is he going to be all right?’ But he gave us six (innings). The way he did it, it was different. But he gave us six.”

Sale veered away from his fastball after the first two innings.

He threw 16 four-seam fastballs in the first and second inning. But he then threw only five four-seamers over the next three innings. He threw four in the sixth with three reaching over 90 mph.

Sale credits catcher Christian Vazquez for recognizing how the Athletics were waiting on his fastball and then for calling more secondary pitches as the game progressed.

Sale recorded only six swings-and-misses: three with his slider and three with his change-up.

Cora and LeVangie constantly check in with Sale (and other pitchers) to see how he feels physically.

“So far, everything’s good,” Cora said.

It’s unlikely that anything is wrong with Sale’s arm structurally, given that he recently underwent a physical when he signed a five-year, $145-million extension.

But low velocity still makes everyone speculate about the true health of his arm.

This marks only the second time in his career as a starting pitcher he has struck out fewer than two batters in a game. It also happened Sept. 16, 2018 versus the New York Mets, his second start back from the injured list when he struck out one.

Still, Sale allowed just three hits and two walks on Tuesday. He pitched well.

“Regardless of the number of fastballs or whatever, he has great pitchability,” LeVangie said. “He has great deception. All his pitches work. It’s about commanding the baseball and when he does, he gets people out. He showed it again tonight.”


Comments are not available on this story.