Red Sox: Chris Sale reaches 300 strikeouts against Baltimore Orioles
By Sean Penney
Left-handed pitcher Chris Sale became the second pitcher in Boston Red Sox history to strikeout at least 300 batters in a season.
Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell faced a difficult decision. His team held a comfortable 8-0 lead that they padded with a lengthy top of the eighth inning and his starting pitcher had already thrown 99 pitches to that point. On the other hand, Chris Sale was on the verge of a tremendous accomplishment.
Farrell ended up sending Sale back out to the mound for the bottom of the eighth, which the lefty breezed through by retiring the side in order. The first two batters grounded out – one routine, the other on a spectacular play by third baseman Deven Marrero. Sale was cruising through the frame in efficient fashion but ground outs weren’t what he was out there for. The only reason to keep the ace in the game at that point was to let him get one more strikeout.
The final batter Sale would face in the game was Ryan Flaherty, who he caught looking at a slider for strike three. The 13th strikeout of the night for Sale was also his 300th of the season.
Sale joins the legendary Pedro Martinez as the only pitchers in franchise history to record at least 300 strikeouts in a season. He’s also the first American League pitcher to accomplish that feat since Pedro did it with the Red Sox in 1999.
The 300 strikeout total leaves Sale 13 shy of the single-season franchise record set by Martinez. He’ll have at least one more opportunity to reach 313 strikeouts before the regular season comes to a close. Sale is currently penciled in to start the final game of the regular season against the Houston Astros but the team will almost certainly skip that outing in favor of resting the arm of their ace if their postseason seeding is locked in by that point.
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That makes it unlikely that Sale will match Pedro’s record, yet it’s still possible. Sale has struck out 13 batters in a game four times this season, including once against a Toronto Blue Jays team that he’ll face next week.
Sale lasted no more than six innings in his previous three September starts, as it seemed the Red Sox were intent on getting him some additional rest down the stretch. Farrell reversed course on that philosophy Wednesday night by sending Sale back out to get strikeout No. 300. Would he risk overexerting his ace in an effort to chase a strikeout record with the postseason looming? Tonight the manager proved that he would.
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The 300 strikeout milestone is another feather in the cap for Sale’s campaign for the Cy Young. Cleveland’s Corey Kluber has arguably pulled ahead of him in the race but Sale’s staggering strikeout total will be difficult for voters to ignore.