Chris Sale’s bar was set incredibly high when he joined the Boston Red Sox this offseason.
Somehow, the left-handed ace has raised it.
Sale pitched his best outing in a season full of stellar ones Thursday at Rogers Centre, baffling the Toronto Blue Jays to the tune of 13 strikeouts and zero earned runs over eight innings in Boston’s 4-1 extra-innings win. He threw 80 of his 102 pitches for strikes, a remarkable feat when you consider there already have been 65 starts this season in which a pitcher has thrown fewer than 80 pitches total.
Sale looked downright unhittable throughout most of his outing, attacking the strike zone with a lethal three-pitch mix while working quickly to keep Toronto’s batters off-balance. And if his performance reminded you of another dominant pitcher of Red Sox years past, you’re not alone.
Baseball Hall of Famer and Red Sox legend Pedro Martinez paid close attention to Sale’s start Thursday and left very impressed.
That’s high praise from a guy whose own starts were must-see attractions at Fenway Park, but Sale’s first four outings for Boston have been nothing short of Pedro-esque.
The 28-year-old now has a blistering 0.91 ERA and leads the majors with 42 strikeouts through 29 2/3 innings. He has pitched at least seven innings and allowed two or fewer runs in all four of his outings, the only pitcher outside Martinez and Tim Wakefield to start his Red Sox career with such a streak. Sale also hasn’t allowed more than five hits in a single outing this season.
The only blemish in Sale’s superb start to his Boston career has been his shocking lack of run support. The left-hander took a rough no-decision Thursday after closer Craig Kimbrel came in to allow the game-tying run in the ninth, meaning Sale is just 1-1 despite allowing a total of three earned runs over four starts.
Sale was diplomatic after the game about his tough break, but there’s no gray area about how lights-out he’s been for the Red Sox in 2017. And no one knows this more than Martinez, who said earlier this season he sees some of himself in the lanky lefty. After Thursday’s scintillating start, Sale certainly proved why.
Thumbnail photo via Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports Images