Boston Red Sox starter Chris sale put together a historic performance on Tuesday at Fenway Park when he against the Colorado Rockies. Sale became the first pitcher in history to strike out 17 or more batters in a start lasting seven innings or fewer. His 17 strikeouts are the most by any pitcher in a game since Max Scherzer struck out 20 on May 11, 2016 and the most by a Red Sox pitcher since Pedro Martinez had 17 in 2000.
But Red Sox manager Alex Cora didn't think it was worth it to risk the health of his ace to keep him in the whole game, so he went to the bullpen for the eighth inning. Pulling Sale out cost him the chance to chase the MLB record of 20 strikeouts in a nine-inning game, but after the game, Sale told reporters that he felt comfortable with Cora's decision. Here's what Sale told reporters Tuesday night (via MLB.com):
"I don't think there's any pitcher on the planet … you've got 17 punchouts, you definitely want to go out for [another] inning. I'd love to have gone back out there, but I respect him as much as anybody on the planet and I'll never question anything he does, even in regard to that."
After early season struggles, Boston's patience with Sale has finally paid off.
"He was amazing," Cora said. "Like we've been saying all along, the slider is obviously back and the fastball command was there. It's not gratifying, just something that we believed. We believe in the players. We believe in what we mapped out. We did it last year and we did it this year. It's something that takes a lot of time."
In Sale's previous outing against the Baltimore Orioles, he finished with 14 strikeouts in eight innings. It's the second time in Sale's career (2015) that he has recorded at least 14 strikeouts in consecutive starts. Sale is the third Red Sox pitcher in the live ball era (since 1920) to do so, joining Pedro Martinez, who did it three times, and Roger Clemens, who did it twice.
Unfortunately for Boston, their bullpen wasn't able to secure the win on Tuesday. With the game tied at 4-4 in the 11th inning, Boston's reliever Ryan Brasier gave up a Mark Reynolds RBI single to drive in the go-ahead run (COL 5, BOS 4 - F/11).
In the past 10 games, the Red Sox have the best record (8-2) out of all the teams in the American League East. With both offense and pitching hitting their strides the same time for the defending World Series champions, don't be surprised if they grab hold of the division lead before this month's end. The team closes out their two-game series with Colorado Wednesday before welcoming the Houston Astros to Fenway for a three-game series.