Red Sox: Chris Sale ties season-high with 13 strikeouts

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 1: Chris Sale
BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 1: Chris Sale /

Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale tied a season-high with 13 strikeouts in a win over the Tampa Bay Rays, putting him on a historic pace.

How does Chris Sale respond to his worst outing in a Boston Red Sox uniform? With his best, naturally.

The last time we saw Sale take the mound he was getting pounded for seven earned runs by the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park, leaving us to wonder if Hell had frozen over. His last visit to Tampa Bay was also the last time he suffered a loss, falling 4-1 to the Rays over a month ago. Combine those two factors and you had to be at least slightly concerned about how Sale would hold up entering Tuesday night’s start in Tampa Bay, right?

Wrong. Rather than let those setback shake his confidence, Sale used it to fuel him to a dominant effort. Sale has a habit of working quickly, but last night seemed different. This was angry Sale, a pitcher eager to mow through an overwhelmed Rays lineup on a mission to obliterate all memories of past failures.

The pitching line for Sale’s outing was brilliant. He shutout the Rays over eight innings, allowing only two hits and a walk. He struck out 13 batters, tying a season high.

Sale carved up the Rays lineup, freezing four hitters looking for a called strike three and getting nine to chase pitches that sent them down swinging.

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It’s the third time this season Sale has recorded 13 strikeouts in a game. He’s faced the Rays four times this season and punched out at least 12 batters in each of them. Sale’s career 13.5 K/9 rate against the Rays is the highest against a single opponent in the modern era (minimum 75 innings), per the Elias Sports Bureau.

Sale has now made 23 starts for the Red Sox this season and has recorded double-digit strikeouts in 15 of them. That gives him the most games with 10+ strikeouts by a Red Sox pitcher in a season since Pedro Martinez in 2000. The franchise record was set by Pedro in 1999, when he struck out 10+ batters in 19 games. With over seven weeks remaining in the season, Sale has sufficient time to challenge that record.

Speaking of Pedro’s records, Sale remains on target to tally the most strikeouts by a Red Sox pitcher in a single season. His total stands at a major league-leading 229 through 23 starts, putting him on pace for 318. Martinez holds the franchise record with 313 strikeouts in 1999.

Was this the best start of the season for Sale? That’s a lofty assumption given how many outstanding efforts we’ve seen from him, yet according to Baseball Reference, the answer is yes. Last night was the second time in his career that Sale has recorded a Game Score of 90 in eight innings or less. He’s the first pitcher since 1913 to do so twice.

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Sale currently leads the American League with 161 1/3 innings, 14 wins, a 2.57 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 229 strikeouts, a 12.77 K/9 and 7.90 K/BB ratio. Just hand him the Cy Young Award now.