Red Sox ace Chris Sale displays career-high fastball velocity
By Sean Penney
Boston Red Sox lefty Chris Sale hit career highs on the radar gun with his fastball during his start against the Chicago White Sox.
It’s unfortunate that the Boston Red Sox lineup couldn’t muster a single run in support of their starter Friday night. They wasted the most overpowering performance we’ve ever seen from Chris Sale.
The lefty was dominant in his last outing, holding the Chicago White Sox to only one run over eight innings. He allowed only six hits, a walk and struck out 10. Sale blanked the opposing lineup through the first six innings before Chicago finally managed string a few hits together to knock in a run. It would be the only run they would need to defeat a Red Sox lineup missing their two best hitters.
The tough luck loss takes nothing away from Sale’s performance. Allowing only one run is outstanding but what really stood out was the velocity on his fastball.
Sale must have been geared up to face his former team. He came out firing in the first, rearing back to hit 99 mph against the second batter he faced. Sale can throw a fastball that few hitters can touch but that’s due more to the deceptive movement of the pitch rather than overpowering heat. It’s unusual for him to throw this hard, especially early in games.
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The 29-year old had never hit triple digits as a starter. He has topped 100 mph as a reliever but starting takes a different approach. You have to pace yourself more to last deep into games. Sale wasn’t holding back last night.
Sale struck out Daniel Palka on a 100.3 mph fastball in the fifth inning, the fastest pitch he’s ever recorded as a starter. It was also the hardest pitch thrown for a swinging strikeout by a starting pitcher this season, edging out Yankees ace Luis Severino (100.2 mph). He hit 100.2 mph against the next batter he faced, a pitch Charlie Tilson defensively fouled off to stay alive.
Fastball velocity was a slight concern early this season when Sale was averaging in the low-90’s. He typically averages in the mid-90’s and has averaged 93.8 mph with his fastball this season, per FanGraphs. He averaged a season-high 96.4 against the White Sox on Friday.
He was still hitting 99 mph as late a the seventh inning and breezed through his final frame before calling it a night. Perhaps Sale wouldn’t have been able to maintain that velocity quite as long against a stronger lineup. Sale needed only 109 pitches to get through eight innings against the light-hitting White Sox.
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Still, it’s nice to know that Sale is capable of cranking it up to 100 if he needs to. If he’s going to hit triple digits with his fastball and follow with an 89 mph changeup or 82 mph slider, it’s just not fair.