Red Sox Strut: Third baseman Rafael Devers, LHP Chris Sale
By Sean Penney
Pitcher who gets to Strut
A pair of meetings with his nemesis from Cleveland and a rough outing in the Bronx left us feeling as if Chris Sale has been off his game lately. Turns out a visit from the Rays was all the medicine he needed to cure his recent issues.
Sale blanked the Rays over six innings, striking out eight. He had struck out at least 12 batters in each of his four previous starts against Tampa Bay, but didn’t hang around long enough to approach that number this time.
Manager John Farrell pulled his ace after only 97 pitches, despite that Sale was cruising along. With a 9-0 lead, there was no need to tax his arm this late in the season. Expect Sale to get a quicker than usual hook in his few remaining starts, especially if the Red Sox hold a comfortable lead. The lefty is quickly approaching the career-high innings total he set last year and has never pitched in the postseason before. The Red Sox will need to be cautious with his workload as they approach uncharted waters.
Sale has already set a career-high with his major league leading 278 strikeouts. Limiting his innings down the stretch could cost him a shot at the single-season franchise record of 313, held by Pedro Martinez. However, Sale has been a significant part of another record. Following his eight strikeout performance over the weekend, Red Sox pitchers set a new franchise record for strikeouts in a season with 1,363. That total continues to grow and there are still nearly three weeks left in the season.
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The Cy Young battle with Indians ace Corey Kluber will remain tight down the stretch. Even if Sale doesn’t take home the hardware, there’s no doubting that he’s producing the most dominant season by a Red Sox pitcher since vintage Pedro.