Patrick McDermott/USA Today Sports

Why did Chris Sale pitch the 8th inning? John Farrell explains

Rob Bradford
September 20, 2017 - 11:48 pm

BALTIMORE -- It wouldn't seem that 12 pitches are about to make or break Chris Sale.

That didn't mean those offerings weren't going to lead to some spirited conversation.

Sitting at 99 pitches, with his team carrying an eight-run lead, Sale was called upon by Red Sox manager John Farrell to go out for the eighth inning. To that point, the Red Sox starter had dominated, having struck out 12 without a walk, while not allowing a single run. He had been throwing without virtually any stress, with the visitors scoring four runs in the fourth inning and two more in the fifth.

And also of note was the fact that Sale sat just one strikeout shy of 300 for the season.

"He came up and asked how I was doing, and I told him I was doing fine," the pitcher said of his in-between innings conversation with Farrell. "Just kept rolling with it. Obviously tacked on a couple there in the eighth inning or seventh inning. Even more incentive to go out there and throw strikes."

"I knew exactly where he was at," the manager noted. "Wanted to check with him and just let him know we’re aware of what’s been transpiring the entire season on all fronts with him. An additional 12 pitches, you know what, he was in really good shape to do it tonight."

With Austin Maddux warming in the Red Sox' bullpen, Sale made the most of the opportunity. The lefty threw eight of his 12 pitches for strikes, including a 99 mph fastball (his hardest pitch of the season) to Baltimore's J.J. Hardy. And, as Farrell had hoped, he got that one additional strikeout to reach the milestone of 300 whiffs, fanning Ryan Flaherty to end the eighth.

"Given the game situation, and the two overriding factors for me were the pitch counts and the innings in which he was in control of throughout," Farrell said. "Gets an extra day this next time through the rotation. All those things were brought into play in the thinking of bringing him back out. We know what the final out of tonight represented him getting the 300 strikeouts. Was aware of that and you know what, felt like he was in complete command of this game and the ability to go out and give that opportunity, he recorded it."

Sale, who has thrown 112 pitches or more in 10 of his 31 outings, now sits with 17 wins and a 2.75 ERA in 209 1/3 innings.

"After he walked up the tunnel after the eight, just mentioned to him, it’s just been a pleasure to watch," Farrell said. "We know that there’s going to be a lot more ahead, but to see that plateau reached, it’s obviously very unique, he’s a unique pitcher in many ways, not just because he’s left-handed with dominant-type stuff but the person that he is, the teammate that he is, he represents this organization and the city of Boston in just a tremendous way."