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Resurgent Chris Sale starting for Braves vs. Red Sox

Red Sox unsung heroes so far, and a Chris Sale reunion in Atlanta
Red Sox unsung heroes so far, and a Chris Sale reunion in Atlanta 10:12

BOSTON -- When the Red Sox traded Chris Sale over the winter, it marked the end of what will go down as one of the worst contracts in Red Sox history. Signed after Sale helped the Red Sox win a World Series in 2018, the left-hander signed a five-year, $145 million deal with the Red Sox, only to start 31 games with a 3.93 ERA over four years during the life of the contract.

While Sale's All-Star (and near Cy Young-worthy) performances in 2017 and 2018 were always appreciated in Boston, the offseason trade for Vaughn Grissom appeared to be nothing more than the Red Sox getting something in return for a lost asset.

Yet in Atlanta, the 35-year-old Sale has thus far managed to move past the litany of injuries that had pushed his career to the brink. And on Wednesday night, he'll be facing his former team.

Sale enters Wednesday's game in Atlanta having started six games, going 4-1 with a 3.44 ERA, 10.3 strikeouts per nine, and a WHIP of 0.955. He's lasted at least five innings in all six of those starts, going seven innings in three consecutive starts from mid-April to the end of the month. He's held opponents to three or fewer runs in all but one of his starts, and he's coming off a season-high nine strikeouts, which he recorded in just five innings of work last time out against Seattle. 

"I want to get back to doing what I know I can do, what I'm capable of doing, and just doing what I need to do for this team," Sale said after that last start. "As a starting pitcher, we pride ourselves on posting and getting deep into games and that's what we're here to do."

Showing up was obviously an issue for Sale from 2020-23, missing the entire 2020 season due to Tommy John surgery, costing him most of the 2021 season as well. He suffered a broken rib at spring training in 2022 and then a broken finger on a line drive in July. While trying to work his way back onto the field, Sale broke his wrist in a bicycle crash, ending his season. And in 2023, he was limited to 20 starts (with a 4.30 ERA) due to shoulder issues.

Through it all, the well-paid Sale expressed his frustration that he was unable to perform his job. And Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who was there for all but the 2020 season of that period, witnessed how much work Sale put into doing his job during those difficult times.

"He was there for me when I was down. The guy is special. I know people make jokes about him -- the injuries and the bike and all that stuff -- which I think is f-----g bulls---. Because this guy did everything possible to be on the field," Cora told reporters this week, per The Boston Globe's Peter Abraham.

So obviously, there won't be any bad blood or resentment from either side when Sale takes the mound on Wednesday night. Yet if he performs well -- like he has all year -- then there are sure to be some harrumphs and grumbles from baseball fans in Boston who wish Sale could have done that for the Red Sox over the past several years.

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