Patrick McDermott/USA Today Sports

Red Sox 9, Orioles 0: It was Chris Sale's most important win

Rob Bradford
September 20, 2017 - 10:18 pm

BALTIMORE -- He didn't look all that tired.

Just when it was getting easier and easier to dig in on the narrative that Chris Sale was going to limp into the postseason a shadow of his previously dominant self, along came Wednesday night's reminder. The ace was an ace again.

Sale did everything the Red Sox hoped he might with 10 games remaining in the regular season, not allowing a run over his eight innings while leading the Red Sox to a 9-0 win over the Orioles. There were just four hits from the O's, with the lefty fanning 13 and not walking a single batter. (For a complete recap of the Red Sox' win, click here.)

And, just for good measure, Sale punctuated his dominance by striking out Ryan Flaherty on his 111th, and final pitch, giving him 300 strikeouts for the season. It was just the second Red Sox pitcher ever to attain such punch-out proficiency, following Pedro Martinez's 1999 season.

"That’s probably the best stuff he’s had all season long," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Just a dominant performance."

"That’s special. We all know that’s about as good a company as you can get. Just appreciative of it," Sale said. "It's fun. Being here and having that name thrown around is special to me; I don't take it lightly. He's one of the best to ever step on that mound. To be in the same sentence as [Martinez> is pretty crazy to me."

It wasn't as if the wheels had totally fallen off Sale's cart heading into this one. But considering what he had been before August and what he had been since (4.25 ERA in nine starts), it offered a much-needed sigh of relief heading into the make-or-break portion of 2017.

Sale truly offered absolutely no evidence that he was trending toward remaining the pitcher who was coming off a mediocre, 5 2/3-inning, four-run outing at Tampa Bay. His fastball consistently sat at 96-97 mph, with the starter notching at least one strikeout in every inning but one.

The one time Sale did get in any kind of trouble -- putting runners on first and third in the seventh inning -- he struck out Wellington Castillo and Mark Trumbo to the history-making eighth-inning. (He would throw his fastest pitch of the season -- a 99 mph fastball to J.J. Hardy -- in the final frame.)

"Yes and no," said Sale when asked if he was surprised about his velocity this late in the season. "We put in a lot of work. And when I say we, this isn’t just me showing up and doing my thing. I have a lot of guys in my corner, in the weight room and the training room, my teammates, things like that, have gotten me here. I’m appreciative of that. Don’t want to overlook everyone."

And this wasn't just another Sale start. This was a Sale start when it counted more than at any time in his Red Sox career.

The Yankees had already won, and without a series sweep of the Orioles the Red Sox would be heading into their off day just two games up in the American League East. The margin for error was Chris Sale-slim. Fortunately for the visitors, the pitcher was a perfect fit.

Getting his first start since last Thursday, Hanley Ramirez notched three hits. Another offensive star for the Red Sox were Mookie Betts and Deven Marrero, who accounted for the first four runs with a pair of two-run home runs.

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