Zylbert: Which Version of Chris Sale Will We Get Tonight at Fenway?

Zylbert: Which Version of Chris Sale Will We Get Tonight at Fenway? article feature image

Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale (41) reacts after a Toronto Blue Jays hit in the second inning at Rogers Centre.

Betting odds: New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox (ALDS Game 1) 

  • First Pitch: 7:32 p.m. ET (TBS)
  • Probable Pitchers: J.A. Happ (17-6, 3.65 ERA) vs. Chris Sale (12-4, 2.11 ERA)

Zylbert’s 2018 MLB Over/Under Betting Record

  • Regular Season: 102-73-4, +21.35 units
  • Postseason: 2-1, +0.75 units
  • Yesterday’s Result: Braves-Dodgers Under 7.5, Foltynewicz vs. Ryu (WIN)

*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit

When it comes to postseason baseball matchups, it doesn’t get any bigger than Red Sox-Yankees. On Friday night, the two eternal rivals commence their American League Division Series at Fenway Park with a premium pitching matchup on display.

The Red Sox will call on ace Chris Sale, who will be looking to avenge his dreadful postseason debut a year ago when he was batted around by the eventual champion Astros.

In his first career playoff start, Sale was hounded for a whopping seven runs in only five innings of work. He didn’t fare much better in the follow-up assignment, failing to complete five innings in Houston’s series-clinching win in Game 4.

But, that’s just something that will only help fuel the seven-time All-Star heading into Game 1 against the Yankees.

If you’ve followed Sale since his earliest days on the White Sox, you know he is about winning above all else. He’s admittedly waited for these types of moments his whole career and I’m confident he can start delivering in October as soon as Friday evening.

Sale is going about it with a very good mindset, too, conceding how “this is everything we show up for.” He also confessed how “we don’t play the game for anything else.” So, in other words, nothing can possibly be any bigger for the 29-year-old.

The elephant in the room, of course, is Sale’s health. He has been limited to just 17 major league innings since the end of July. Will the 6-foot-6 southpaw be close enough to full strength to handle a lineup as dangerous as that of the Bronx Bombers?

I think he will. Boston purposely managed his workload the last two months. Sale threw no more than five innings in each of his final five starts, the club wanting to gradually work him back up to full strength while maintaining his durability. I believe that effort will help, now being able to set him loose and allow the 2017 AL Cy Young runner-up to unload with no worries.

A full-strength Sale would be great to lean on, considering his mastery of New York during his time in the majors. He won both his meetings with the Yankees this year, allowing just a single run and only 10 base runners across 13 innings combined while striking out 19.

For his career, Sale is 6-4 in 14 starts (and three relief appearances) versus the Yanks with an incredible 1.61 ERA and 0.89 WHIP, along with 130 strikeouts in 100 2/3 innings.

Fortunately, Sale isn’t the only pitcher in this matchup with a desirable history against his opponent. Enter J.A. Happ, who was comfortably saved for the beginning of this series because of his long-standing success against Boston.

In his career, Happ has faced the Red Sox 21 times (20 starts), etching an 8-4 record and 2.98 ERA, including a 5-2 record and 3.27 ERA in 10 games (nine starts) at Fenway Park. This season, he is 1-1 in four starts against Boston with a stingy 1.99 ERA.

Since coming to the Bronx leading up to the trade deadline, Happ has been a breath of fresh air for a rotation that sorely needed it. He is a perfect 7-0 in his 11 assignments with the Yankees, notching a 2.69 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and .217 batting average against in 63 2/3 innings.

That’s just what Happ does when he arrives on a new club. As I wrote last month, the 12-year veteran did the same thing a few years ago when he was dealt in the middle of the season from the Mariners to the Pirates. Happ went 7-2 (also in 11 starts) with a 1.85 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and .221 BAA for Pittsburgh.

I got my under bet on right away this morning as soon as I saw it sitting at 8, which is why it’s so crucial to be following me in the SportsAction app. I see it’s gone down to 7.5, but still worth some action at that number.

Play: UNDER 8 (-125)