Boston Red Sox

By Matt McCarthy,

With only hours to go before the Red Sox and the Yankees open up the ALDS, we still have no earthly idea what the status of Chris Sale’s injured shoulder is.

Even the most confident of Red Sox fans have to be unnerved by the uncertainty that surrounds their ace and most important player in October.

The unknown is a scary thing.

Make no mistake about it: Sale’s health, and as a result, his effectiveness, will be the key to the series for the Red Sox.

If the lefty returns to his mid-season form, the chances of the Sox winning the series increase dramatically. If Sale looks like damaged goods like he has in his last two outings, the Red Sox are in deep, deep trouble.

How Sale looks tonight will set the tone for the entire series.

If Sale looks healthy, his presence in a decisive Game 5 will loom like a dark cloud over the Yankees, adding additional pressure on New York to win the series in four.

If Sale isn’t ready to go, the complexion of the series changes entirely.

If the Red Sox lose Game 1 and it’s clear that Sale isn’t right, enormous pressure falls on David Price and Rick Porcello to save the Red Sox from elimination.

History will tell us that Price and Porcello, the ultimate October failures, cannot handle that pressure.

Sep 19, 2018; Bronx, NY, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher David Price (24) reacts during the second inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The thought of an unhealthy and ineffective Sale should terrify Red Sox fans just as much as the thought of Price and Porcello taking the ball with the team losing in the series.

Sale can survive with a fastball in the high-80’s against the lowly Orioles. It’s hard to imagine him making it through an outing with that type of stuff against a powerhouse Yankees lineup.

We should get our answer almost immediately tonight. Is there life on his fastball again? Do his off-speed pitches look sharp? Is he working at his normal ludicrous-speed pace?

If all of those questions are answered with a resounding yes, the Red Sox should, and will, win this series.

If the answer is no, it’s easy to see a third-straight Red Sox early exit from October.

The season rests on the left shoulder of Chris Sale. Whether that’s a good thing or bad thing remains to be seen.

The unknown is scary, indeed.

You can hear Matt McCarthy on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s own Hardcore Baseball podcast and on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.