Eight innings. Zero runs. One walk. Four hits. Thirteen strikeouts.
That was the stat line for the Red Sox’ new ace on Thursday afternoon in their 4-1 extra innings win over the Blue Jays in Toronto.
He didn’t get the W because the offense couldn’t score for him once again but he was absolutely dominant, throwing 78 percent of his pitches for strikes (80 strikes, 22 balls). The highlight came when he struck out the side in the seventh inning on 10 pitches.
Chris Sale has been one of the elite pitchers in Major League Baseball for eight years now. Virtually unhittable when he’s at his best, and he’s almost always at his best.
Chris Sale has also never won a Cy Young Award, despite being one of the top six finalists five times. Why?
He’s never been on a playoff team.
The 28 year-old lefty has made a living putting up Cy Young worthy numbers on a team that has been historically awful at making the postseason and has only seen October baseball once since it’s World Series win in 2005.
Two current Red Sox pitchers have won a Cy Young, and it doesn’t take an expert to realize that neither of them are as good as Sale. They just happen to have played on better teams.
Now he’s on a team that has won three World Series titles in the last 13 years, is coming off a division title, and is overflowing with young talent.
This is his time. Chris Sale is the new undisputed leader of the Red Sox’ pitching staff and he knows it. He knows that if he can help this team get back to the top of the AL East by being the best pitcher he can be, the Cy Young will be his come October. Then he can finally display his talents in the postseason, which is something he needs to add to his legacy.
The fact that this guy has never pitched in a playoff game is a shame, because he has all the characteristics of someone who is built for October. Sox fans are already falling in love with him for his competitive fire and attacking mindset that David Price and Rick Porcello seem to lack. I’m not saying that those guys can’t be successful in the playoffs behind Sale, but you need your number one guy to have an edge to him.
That edge has been apparent through Sale’s first four starts this year. The only thing he’s been missing is support from the Red Sox’ offense. He’s only 1-1, although he’s pitched more than well enough to win all four times he’s taken the mound. His 0.91 ERA can back that up.
As usual, Chris Sale is looking like the type of pitcher that hitters are terrified to face. But now that he has an actual team around him, he’s clearly on a mission to prove just how great he can be.
Follow Jack Bardsley on Twitter @BostonsBigFour