Chris Sale doesn’t seem to care much about his statistics that glow like a barrel of nuclear waste. He’s mostly concerned about throwing that nuclear slider of his in the right place. Then doing it again in his next start and the one after that, and then especially doing it in the postseason, that promised land he has never reached before.
After allowing seven runs to the Cleveland Indians in his previous start — the second time in August that the Indians scored seven off him — you know he was itching to get back on the mound and dominate like he has against every other team. In Tuesday’s start in Toronto, he took a one-hitter into the eighth inning, and finished with 11 strikeouts over seven-plus scoreless innings in the Boston Red Sox‘s 3-0 victory.
“It seemed like a month ago,” Sale told reporters after the game about that last outing. “Any time you go out there and have a bad one, you want to get right back out there. As a competitor and being in sports, that’s what you want to do, you want to go back out there and right the ship.”
Sale turned to that slider to shut down the Blue Jays. Here’s how he did it, courtesy of Sarah Langs of ESPN Stats & Info:
He used his slider 41 percent of the time, the fourth time this season he has used his slider at least 41 percent of the time. He hasn’t allowed more than a run in any of those starts.
A lot of what he did was much more like the first-half Sale, rather than the guy who had a 5.40 ERA in August. He got swinging strikes on 27 percent of his sliders, his third-highest rate this season and highest since late June.
He got first-pitch strikes against 75 percent of batters, his highest rate since July 6.
Along the way, he reached a milestone with his 1,500th career strikeout:
Chris Sale strikes out Kevin Pillar for his 1,500th career strikeout. He’s the fastest ever to reach the 1,500-K plateau, in terms of IP. pic.twitter.com/B82o5yDwHx
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 29, 2017
“I appreciate it,” Sale said. “I try not to get too caught up in it, but I definitely take a step back and look at it and appreciate it.” That’s a different tone from his postgame comments back in July, when he didn’t want to talk about his successful start. “I’m not here to talk about that kind of crap, man,” Sale said back then. “We have a long way to go. A long way to go; we have a lot of work to do.”
So he probably doesn’t care too much that his Game Score of 82 was his fifth this season of 80-plus, matching Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer and Cleveland’s Corey Kluber for most in the majors. He probably doesn’t care that he passed Joe Wood to take over fourth place on the single-season Red Sox strikeout list. With 264, he’s on pace for 324, which would break Pedro Martinez’s team record of 313 set in 1999.
What Sale most cares about is holding off the New York Yankees for the American League East crown. That lead is up to four games after the Yankees were rained out Tuesday. You might not want to miss Sale’s next start: Sunday at Yankee Stadium.
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