Tonight was the kind of Red Sox game you only dream about. The only thing that could’ve made it better was if David Ortiz had come out of the dugout in the 9th, hit a pinch-hit home run, and announced his unretirement.
But pretty much the next best thing happened. Actually, so many things happened.
For starters (literally), Chris Sale is officially back to being the monster we all know and love/fear. He’s actually been back for quite a while, but you might not have noticed if all you do is look at the team record in his games and his win-loss record, which, going into tonight, was 1-6. But in reality, Chris Sale has now struck out 10 or more batters in seven of his last nine starts, and has allowed two or less earned runs in seven of his last nine. In those nine games, he’s struck out 96 batters in 59.1 innings. He’s on top of MLB in that category by a mile; Max Scherzer comes in second with 73 strikeouts, which isn’t even close.
Unfortunately for him, coming into tonight, the Red Sox were barely averaging three runs of support in his starts. So he could strike out 17 batters, and he did, and the team still lost in extra innings. It was maddening.
But like I said, tonight was a dream. A dream in which Chris Sale pitched a complete-game shutout on 102 pitches, and the lineup gave him 8 runs of support. Andrew Benintendi and Brock Holt each had a 3-hit game, while Rafael Devers continued to be the hottest hitter in preschool, going 2-for-5 with a solo home run, 3 RBIs, and 3 runs scored.
In his third complete-game shutout of his career (his first with the Sox), Sale struck out 12 batters and walked none, only allowing three hits – none of which were for extra bases – over nine full innings. He retired the last fifteen batters he faced. And his velocity? High 90s, baby.
The cherry on top of the Sale Sundae was his second immaculate inning of the season, because why not make history while you’re at it? On May 8th, he threw nine pitches, all for strikes, against the Orioles. Tonight, less than a month later, he did it again. It’s only the 6th recorded immaculate inning in franchise history, and he joins fellow starter Rick Porcello and former teammate-turned-new-Cubs-arm Craig Kimbrel in having accomplished the feat. He’s only the second pitcher in MLB history with two immaculate innings in the same season; Lefty Grove did it twice in 1928, but it took him over a month.
Think back to Sale’s painful Opening Day start in March. Now think about tonight. It’s been tough and infuriating, but the Red Sox are coming back, and they’re coming back with a vengeance. It’s going to be delicious.
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Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images