Chris Sale pitched his second immaculate inning of the season while shutting out the Royals to tie an MLB record held by a Boston Red Sox legend.
Well, that’s one way to ensure that you hang on to capture a rare win. Go the distance yourself rather than risk putting the game in the hands of a shaky bullpen. That’s exactly what Chris Sale did to earn his second win of the season for the Boston Red Sox.
Sale was masterful in carving up the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday. The lefty struck out 12 in a three-hit complete game shutout. This marks the first time since May 11 of last season that Sale has gone the full nine innings and his first shutout since April 15, 2016, when he was with the Chicago White Sox.
Blanking the Royals wasn’t even the most impressive aspect of this outing. Shutouts are relatively rare but what Sale accomplished in the eighth inning was historical. He breezed through the frame on nine pitches, all strikes, to punch out the side for an immaculate inning.
Sale caught the outside corner with a slider to catch Kelvin Gutierrez looking for the first out of the inning. He froze lefty Nicky Lopez with a slider on the inside part of the plate for another strikeout. Sale wrapped up the inning by getting Martin Maldonado to chase a 97 mph fastball up and away.
The immaculate inning was the second of the season for Sale, who accomplished this rare achievement against the Baltimore Orioles on May 8. He joins Hall of Famer Lefty Grove (1928) as the only MLB pitchers to throw multiple immaculate innings in the same season.
Grove was pitching for the Philadelphia Athletics at the time but would spend the second half of his career with the Red Sox, where he went on to establish himself as the greatest left-handed pitcher in franchise history. Perhaps Sale, who inked a five-year extension prior to this season, will one day supplant Grove for that honor.
Sale showed no signs of slowing down when he came back for the ninth inning, setting down the side in order on 10 pitches. He only added one strikeout though and even tossed a couple of pitches that missed the strike zone. Hey, not every inning can be flawless. His performance remains a masterpiece of efficiency, needing only 102 pitches to complete the shutout, falling just shy of recording a “Maddox.”
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It’s been a frustrating season for Sale and the underachieving Red Sox. The ace of the rotation was sitting on only one win entering last night’s game despite surrendering three runs or less in eight of his 12 starts. A baffling lack of run support and some bullpen meltdowns have been wickedly unfair to him, although Sale wasn’t his typically dominant self early in the season. Shutting out the Royals lowered his ERA to 3.84 this season, which would easily be a career-high.
It’s clear that Sale has recovered from this rocky start. He posted a 2.82 ERA in six starts last month and is off to an impeccable beginning to June. He’s regained his velocity after ramping up slowly in April and is back to blowing hitters away.
He may not have his usual All-Star caliber numbers this season but last night proved that Sale is still among the most dangerous pitchers for opposing lineups to face.