Red Sox ace is closing in on his own mark, shared with Pedro Martinez
By Alex Putterman
Special to MLB.com |
BOSTON -- With a sixth-inning strikeout of Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, Red Sox lefty Chris Sale hit double-digit K's for the seventh consecutive start during a 6-3 Boston win Saturday. His streak is now one shy of the Major League record, set by Pedro Martinez in 1999 and matched by Sale in 2015.
The only other pitchers to strike out 10-plus batters in seven consecutive starts are Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan.
Sale has been dominant in his first season in Boston. He has allowed more than three earned runs just once so far, and comfortably leads the Majors with 85 strikeouts.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said Saturday's outing looked very familiar.
"It was almost a carbon copy of the past six starts," he said. "Chris is every adjective we've given him so far. Lot of swing-and-miss, he's competitive, goes deep into games. It's a blueprint of the other six starts."
Prior to Saturday, Sale had struck out 37.6 percent of batters he faced this season. Maintained over a full season, that would be a Major League-record rate for a qualified starter, just ahead of Martinez in 1999.
Sale delivered more of the same against the Rays. The lefty's best pitch may have been his changeup, which he threw 30 times for 21 strikes. He got more whiffs on that pitch than on his fastball or slider, despite throwing those pitches more often.
Rays manager Kevin Cash said Sale appeared to cruise through the early innings, striking out seven Rays hitters in the first three frames.
"He's got the ability to just kind of kick it in different gears," Cash said. "It looked like the first couple innings he was just kind of almost still warming up. He wasn't just letting fastballs go, he pitched off his changeup, kind of pitched backwards. When you got a guy that's left-handed, throws from that slot, with the power fastball and the ability to throw a really good diving changeup and a sweeping slider, you're going to have your hands full."
Sale allowed home runs to Logan Morrison and Kevin Kiermaier, the first home runs to lefties he's allowed in 2017. But after the Red Sox scored four runs in the fifth inning to give him back the lead, Sale retired six of the seven batters he faced in the sixth and seventh.
Alex Putterman is a contributor to MLB.com based in Boston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.