Chris Sale has been so routinely dominant this season that it’s sometimes difficult to put his success into context. But if the Boston Red Sox left-hander keeps this up, the excellence of his 2017 campaign will become abundantly clear.
Sale returned to ace form Tuesday night at Tropicana Field, mowing down 13 Tampa Bay Rays batters over eight shutout innings in Boston’s 2-0 win. He now has 229 strikeouts in 23 outings this season, good for a ridiculous average of 10 strikeouts per start. And with every start, “The Condor” is closing in on history.
Here’s the first milestone well within Sale’s reach: Tuesday marked his 15th 10-strikeout performance of the season, putting him just four behind Pedro Martinez for the most in a single season by a Red Sox pitcher.
If Sale pitches every fifth day for the rest of the season, he’ll take the mound 10 more times. If he records double-digit punch-outs in just half of those outings — he’s on a 65 percent clip (15 for 23) right now — he’ll take down Martinez’s record from his legendary 1999 campaign.
But Sale also has the chance to break another Martinez record. Pedro’s 313 strikeouts in 1999 — which some consider one of the best seasons ever by a Major League Baseball pitcher — are the most in a single season by a Boston pitcher. Sale sits 84 strikeouts shy of that total with a month and a half left in the season.
If Sale indeed gets 10 more starts, he’ll need to average 8.4 strikeouts per outing to reach Martinez’s record. That’s quite the ask for most mortal pitchers, but this is Chris Sale we’re talking about — a guy who’s averaging an MLB-best 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings. If he kept that pace up and pitched 70 more innings this year (he’s currently averaging seven innings a start), he’d finish with 329 Ks and smash Martinez’s seemingly untouchable milestone.
In reality, Sale’s quest for 314 probably will come down to the wire, as his seven-run hiccup against the Cleveland Indians last week proved he’s not totally untouchable. But if the 28-year-old just continues pitching like he has all season, he could etch a permanent spot in the Red Sox record books.
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images
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