We’re running out of adjectives to describe Chris Sale’s stellar 2018 season for the Boston Red Sox.
The Sox ace was activated from the 10-day disabled list Sunday and made his 23rd start of the season. The left shoulder inflammation that sent him to the DL looked to be an issue of the past, as the left-hander improved his record to 12-4 with a dominant outing in Boston’s 4-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.
Sale gave up just one hit and zero runs, struck out 12 and walked none over five innings. Baltimore hitters had almost no chance of hitting Sale, who appeared to be in top form.
His velocity was fantastic, often hitting the upper 90s and even touching 100 mph on occasion. The movement on his slider was filthy, and his changeup fooled hitters who had just seen a 100 mph fastball on the previous pitch.
The Red Sox likely will be cautious with Sale down the stretch to ensure he’s 100 percent when October rolls around, but based on his start Sunday, it seems like he’s back to normal, which is bad news for the rest of the American League.
Here are some other notes from Red Sox-Orioles:
— Sale now leads the American League with 219 strikeouts. Sunday marked his 11th start with at least 10 Ks.
The Orioles as a team struck out a season-high 18 times, led by Chris Davis’ four Ks.
— The Red Sox, at 85-35, are 50 games over .500 for the first time since 1946. They lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the World Series that year.
Boston leads the majors in wins (85), win percentage (.708) and run differential (plus-213).
— The Sox didn’t explode offensively Sunday, but in August they have been red-hot at the plate, averaging 7.9 runs per game in 11 contests.
— Mookie Betts extended his hitting streak to eight games with an RBI double in the ninth inning. He’s hitting .441 during the hit streak and leads the majors with a .350 batting average.
— J.D. Martinez leads the majors in home runs (37) and RBIs (104), and he’s second in batting average (.333) to teammate Mookie Betts. No player has led the majors in all three categories since Mickey Mantle in 1965.
Martinez actually has more home runs than the Orioles do wins (35).
He went 2-for-4 with two doubles in Sunday’s win.
— The Red Sox have won nine of their last 12 road games, improving their record away from Fenway Park to 43-20. Boston won 45 road games all of last season.
— Boston’s bullpen made it interesting when Sale departed after five innings. Red Sox manager Alex Cora used a total of five relief pitchers, and they combined to give up four hits, five walks and one earned run.
Matt Barnes had the most trouble when he loaded the bases in the eighth following two hits and a walk. He gave up one run and then Ryan Brasier came in to get the final out of the frame. Even closer Craig Kimbrel wasn’t rock solid, giving up a walk and a hit but striking out the side to earn his 35th save.
This Red Sox team has very few weaknesses, but one potential cause for concern is the bullpen. Sunday was further proof.
Thumbnail photo via Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY Sports Images