Chris Sale was injured again in his start against the New York Yankees on Sunday. He has pitched just 5 2/3 innings for the Red Sox this season. Julia Nikhinson/Associated Press

Down goes Sale. Does that mean the Sox are up for sale?

When Chris Sale walked off the mound Sunday, holding up the horribly bent and broken finger on his pitching hand, some fans immediately waved goodbye at the team’s hopes for the playoffs in 2022.

It was a heartbreaking moment for a pitcher who was trying to overcome Tommy John surgery, a rib fracture and several other medical setbacks over the last three years.

“Here we go again,” said Red Sox Manager Alex Cora after the game. “That was my reaction.”

The reaction for fans was that Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Chaim Bloom would start the sell-off of his pending free agents, waving the white flag and planning for 2023 and beyond.

It doesn’t have to be that way. The Sox, after one of the most inconsistent 93-game stretches in recent memory, are still just two games out of the newly expanded AL playoff picture. They got there without help from Sale, who threw just 5 2/3 innings before his latest injury.


The Sox lost both of his starts.

So it’s foolish to say the loss of Sale torpedoes their hopes. What it does is highlight this team’s need for help.

The Sox put together a 20-6 June without a pitch thrown by Sale. It was one of the best months in the history of the franchise. The team crumbled in July as Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Wacha, Rich Hill and Garrett Whitlock went on the injured list.

Eovaldi is back and starting the opener against the Blue Jays on Friday. Whitlock is back providing desperately needed help to the bullpen. Wacha and Hill threw bullpens over the weekend and should be back soon.

The Sox were also helped in June by the emergence of Franchy Cordero and Jarren Duran. Both opened eyes with their production.

In July, both regressed to their prior selves. Cordero’s OPS has dropped from .803 in May to .721 in June to .446 in July. He struck out in 15 of his 16 at bats on the road trip. Duran has followed the same path: his .864 OPS in June has given way to a .515 rate in July. He has just two hits in his last 30 at bats.


Simply getting league-average production over from those two players this month would have probably given the Sox a couple of wins and put them in a wild-card spot. Getting league-average players at the trade deadline shouldn’t be that difficult.

You could argue the loss of Christian Arroyo (.775 OPS in the 21 games before he suffered a left groin strain) and minor-leaguer Triston Casas have been bigger setbacks to Boston’s hopes for October baseball.

Even with them, and Sale, the Sox would not been favored in a series over the Yankees or Astros. Yet last fall reminded us that a team with the right mix of pitching and the right manager can knock off favorites and take us for a ride.

Cora has a track record of getting the most out of his teams in October. Bloom should do what it takes to get him there.

That doesn’t mean wiping out the farm system for a rental player like Josh Bell. In fact, Bloom could probably sell off a pending free agent or two while still helping their chances. Keep Xander Bogaerts and Eovaldi. Both are vital to the Sox hopes. Trade a low-level prospect or two to add help at first base and right field. Play Rob Refsnyder more. Let James Paxton finish his rehab and bolster the pitching staff.

Chris Sale’s injury doesn’t mean he has to blow up the team and start over. It does mean he shouldn’t go all in, either. What he should do is stay in the middle lane, and give Cora enough to make the rest of the season interesting. Getting to the postseason without Sale would be good enough. Maybe Cora will create a little magic and win a series or two.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. He is a graduate of Lewiston High School.

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