Red Sox: Chris Sale joins elite company with 12 strikeout game
By Sean Penney
Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale is not only leading the majors in strikeouts, his 12 K’s on Sunday also put him in elite company historically.
Chris Sale got the Boston Red Sox back on track Saturday afternoon, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays for his fourth win of the season with another dazzling performance. While a double-digit strikeout game may seem like the norm for the lanky lefty these days, his latest effort puts him in rare territory in Major League history.
Sale struck out a dozen hitters, matching his total from the last time he faced Tampa Bay nearly a month ago. The first time he dominated the Rays lineup marked his second consecutive start with 10+ strikeouts. He hasn’t stopped racking up double-digit strikeouts since.
The streak is now up to seven consecutive starts with at least ten strikeouts, putting him in elite company. The only other American League pitchers to accomplish that feat are Pedro Martinez, Nolan Ryan and Sale, who had an eight game streak in 2015 with the Chicago White Sox.
Boston’s new ace now has a major league-leading 85 strikeouts this season, while no other pitcher has more than 62. In fairness, Sale has made eight starts while a few of the other league leaders are still stuck at seven. Fine, well his career-high 13.04 K/9 is second in the majors among qualified starting pitchers. Only Danny Salazar (13.13 K/9) has a higher strikeout rate, although the Cleveland Indians starter has also pitched over 20 fewer innings than Sale.
The strikeout total is even more impressive when you consider that Sale is still acclimating to a new environment. His 85 strikeouts ties him with Randy Johnson for the most through eight starts with a new team. The Big Unit had the top two spots on the list to himself, set in consecutive years with the Houston Astros and Arizona Diamondbacks, until Sale joined him in his first season with the Red Sox.
As dominant as Sale was this afternoon, his latest outing was unusual for reasons that weren’t all positive. All three of the runs Tampa scored against him came on a pair of home runs, making it the first time all season that Sale has allowed multiple homers in a game.
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If that wasn’t enough of an oddity on its own, both home runs Sale surrendered were to left-handed hitters. Entering the game, lefties were hitting a mere .150 with a .377 OPS and zero home runs against Sale this season, so it was a shock to see two of them take him deep in the same game. The eight-year veteran had only allowed eight home runs to a left-handed hitter his entire career prior to today!
Despite the home runs that he coughed up against the Rays, Sale exits his latest start with a 2.15 ERA that ranks sixth in the American League. None of the qualified starters with a lower ERA have more than 50 strikeouts, putting him well ahead of the competition in that category.
His 0.77 WHIP is also tied for the league lead with Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco, whose 2.5 WAR makes him the only pitcher in the majors who has provided more value than Sale’s 2.4 WAR.
Next: Holt, Sandoval progressing
Any way you look at it, Sale is making a strong case for being the front-runner in the Cy Young race. Now that the Red Sox are finally scoring some runs for him, the wins should start piling up almost as quickly as his strikeouts.