Chris Sale received a rousing ovation from the Fenway Park crowd Monday as he was introduced at a Boston Red Sox regular-season game for the first time.
And he didn’t even pitch that day.
The Red Sox’s prized offseason acquisition will have that chance Wednesday night, taking the mound against the Pittsburgh Pirates in one of the most anticipated Boston pitching debuts in recent memory.
Sale enters with mighty expectations, and rightfully so — the 28-year-old left-hander is one of the best pitchers in the game. He has been named to five consecutive All-Star teams, led the American League in strikeouts in 2015 and posted a 17-10 record with a 3.34 ERA last season for the Chicago White Sox.
Of course, Sale isn’t the only big-name arm to come through Boston via signing or trade. In fact, we’ve seen some pretty memorable debuts by Red Sox pitchers in recent years, from 10-plus strikeout performances to an improbable no-hitter.
Here’s how six other high-profile starters fared in their first starts with the Sox, ranked in order of performance.
6. Rick Porcello: April 8, 2015, at Philadelphia Phillies — 6.0 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 4 K
The most recent starter to debut for Boston, Porcello was more or less unspectacular in his first Red Sox start. Three runs allowed over six innings isn’t terrible, but he took the loss in a 4-2 defeat to the lowly Phillies. And as you’ll see, the bar pretty is high here.
5. Curt Schilling: April 6, 2004, at Baltimore Orioles — 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 7 K
Schilling delivered a workmanlike start at Camden Yards, pitching six solid innings of one-run ball. He threw 76 of his 109 pitches for strikes, keeping the game in control to help the Red Sox earn their first win of the season.
4. Josh Beckett: April 5, 2006, at Texas Rangers — 7.0 IP, 1 ER, 7 H, 1 BB, 5 K
Beckett came to town along with Mike Lowell in a much-publicized offseason blockbuster trade, and he delivered the goods in his first start. The right-hander allowed an RBI single to Michael Young in the first inning but was lights-out after that, earning himself the win after the Red Sox plated two runs in the top of the seventh en route to a 2-1 victory.
3. Daisuke Matsuzaka: April 5, 2007, at Kansas City Royals — 7.0 IP, 1 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 10 K
Dice-K didn’t quite live up to expectations after the Red Sox emptied the bank to bring him over from Japan. But he showed plenty of promise in his stateside debut, allowing only one run on a David DeJesus homer while racking up 10 strikeouts over seven innings in a 4-1 Boston win.
2. Pedro Martinez: April 1, 1998, at Oakland Athletics — 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 11 K
Did you expect anything less? Pedro set the tone in Boston from Day 1, retiring the first 11 batters he faced in a Red Sox uniform. He struck out Oakland’s final two batters in the seventh before giving way to Dennis Eckersley and Tom Gordon, who wrapped up a 2-0 Boston win. Martinez somehow one-upped himself in his Fenway debut 10 days later, pitching a complete-game shutout with 12 strikeouts and just two hits allowed.
1. Hideo Nomo: April 4, 2011, at Orioles — 9.0 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 3 BB, 11 K
Nomo pitched only one season in Boston and wasn’t exactly a huge name. So why he is on this list? Well, because he spun a no-hitter in his very first Red Sox start, dazzling fans with an 11-strikeout domination of the Orioles in a 3-0 win. As far as debuts go, Nomo’s no-no pretty much is impossible to top.
Thumbnail photo via Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Images
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