Boston, MA - The Boston Red Sox finally have their ace back in the rotation. After shoulder inflammation landed Chris Sale on the disabled list for a brief two week stint, the lanky star returned to action yesterday afternoon in the final game of Boston's four game series against the Baltimore Orioles. And he was lights out.
The team expected Sale's pitch count and innings pitched to be limited due to the sensitive nature of his injury and the desire to ease the American League Cy Young favorite back into baseball smoothly. Therefore, he only pitched for five innings, but some fans speculated that he might have had a shot at the all-time single game strikeout record that seemed like it was within reach.
Through his five innings, Sale threw only sixty-eight pitches and he managed to rack up a whopping twelve strikeouts, which means that over half of his pitches yesterday were involved in a strikeout. He walked no batters in his five innings of shutout ball and only gave up one hit, which certainly exceeded expectations for many who thought it might take Sale a bit to get back into his groove. This is especially true since his groove was so astounding before he went down with the injury.
Since July 1, Sale has an earned run average of 0.69 (giving up only one run) with only four walks, compared to fifty-five strikeouts. The reason these numbers might seem so stellar is because they are, in fact, historic. By evaluating the statistic of strikeouts per nine innings pitched, of which Sale has 13.5, he is having the greatest season ever for a starting pitcher. Randy Johnson's 2001 campaign with the Arizona Diamondbacks comes in at second with 13.41, but Sale during last season is in fourth with 12.93.
The excellent reemergence of Sale is yet another seminal moment in a Red Sox season that is historic, as well. Off the heels of Sale's start, Boston defeated Baltimore 4-1 in a three-day, four-game sweep that elevated the team to 85-35, a whopping fifty games over a .500 winning percentage. I don't know about you, but I'm having a lot of fun.