Red Sox

Drellich: How should Sox handle Sale's pursuit of Pedro's strikeout record?

Drellich: How should Sox handle Sale's pursuit of Pedro's strikeout record?

BALTIMORE — Baseball records are so precise. When to pursue them, when to value them even if minor risk is involved, is not nearly as clear cut.

The Red Sox, Chris Sale and John Farrell have stumbled upon that grey area, and it will continue to play out in the final two weeks of the regular season.

Sale reached a tremendous milestone on Wednesday night, becoming the 14th different pitcher in the live ball era to reach 300 strikeouts in a single season. No one else has done it in the American League this century. Clayton Kershaw was the last to get there in the National League two years ago.

“It was really fun,” Sale said of having his family on hand. “My wife, both my boys are here, my mother-in-law. Being able to run out and get a big hug from him and my wife and everybody — it was special having them here for something like this . . . I’ll spend a little time with them before we head to Cincinnati.”

Now, there’s another mark ahead of Sale: Pedro Martinez’s single-season club record of 313. And the pursuit of that record is going to highlight the discussion of what matters even more.

The tug-of-war between absolute pragmatism and personal achievement was on display Wednesday, when Farrell gave ground to the latter. 

The manager was prepared for the questions after a celebratory 9-0 win over the Orioles. His pitchers threw 26 straight scoreless innings to finish off a three-game sweep of the Orioles, and the Sox had the game well in hand the whole night.

With seven innings and 99 pitches thrown and 299 strikeouts in the books, Sale went back out for the eighth inning.

If you watched it, if you saw Sale drop a 2-2 front-door slider to a hapless Ryan Flaherty for the final strikeout Sale needed and his last pitch of the night, you surely enjoyed it. Records may not be championships, but they have their own appeal in sports that’s undeniable. 

But Sale could have recorded strikeout No. 300 next time out. Surely, he would have. He needed all 111 pitches to do so Wednesday. So the difference between 299 and 300 wound up being just 12 pitches. It’s doubtful those 12 pitches will ruin Sale’s postseason chances, particularly considering he was throwing hard all game, touching 99 mph. 

Nonetheless, the Sox hope to play for another month, and they've been working to get Sale extra rest. So, why risk fatigue, or worse, injury?

“The two overriding factors for me,” Farrell explained, “were the pitch counts and the innings in which he was in control of throughout. Gets an extra day [for five days of rest] 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.”

If Sale makes his final two starts of the year, he’ll break Martinez's record of 313. At least he should. But he might not make his projected final start, in Game No. 162, so that he’s set up for Game 1 in the Division Series.

(So, if he could reach 314 Ks in his next start, he’d make this discussion disappear — but 14 Ks in one outing is not easy.)

When should exceptions be made to let someone get to a record? Where do you draw the line? Would it be reasonable to get Sale an inning or two against the Astros in Game 162 if he was a few strikeouts away, even though he may face the Astros in the Division Series?

Letting the Astros get extra looks against Sale is a different matter than Sale throwing 12 extra pitches. But neither is really a guarantee of doom. They're small risks, of varying size.

Consider that if Sale is on, he should rough up the Astros no matter what.

What's 12 pitches Wednesday for a guy who leads the majors in average pitches thrown per game? Not enough to keep Farrell from letting Sale have a go at one milestone.

Will the Sox work to put Sale in position for the next?

Records don’t usually fall into such a grey area. Outside of the steroid era, anyway.

Red Sox bats go silent in 5-0 loss to Tigers

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File Photo

Red Sox bats go silent in 5-0 loss to Tigers

DETROIT -- Mike Fiers might be pitching his way into a pennant chase.

The Detroit right-hander worked impressively into the seventh inning Saturday night, and Jose Iglesias homered and drove in four runs to lift the Tigers to a 5-0 win over the Boston Red Sox.

Fiers has been sharp lately, and after lowering his ERA to 3.49, he's looking more and more like someone the rebuilding Tigers might trade to a contender.

"You see it. You see your name pop up here and there," Fiers said. "I've just got to keep my mind focused on baseball and pitching and just go out there every fifth day."

The major league-leading Red Sox lost for just the second time in 15 games, and their AL East edge over the New York Yankees slipped to 4 1/2 games.

Fiers (7-6) had his first scoreless outing since his Tigers debut April 8, when he beat the Chicago White Sox 1-0 in Detroit's only other shutout this season. This time, he allowed seven hits and three walks in 6 1/3 innings, striking out six.

Brian Johnson (1-3) gave up two unearned runs and five hits in five innings for Boston. He struck out five.

Detroit took the lead in the second after Victor Martinez reached on an error by third baseman Rafael Devers, playing his first game since being reinstated from the disabled list. Devers fielded Martinez's grounder well behind third and his throw went past first, enabling Martinez to arrive safely.

That miscue proved costly when Iglesias came up with two outs and hit a two-run double, giving the Tigers a 2-0 lead.

Fiers was with the World Series champion Astros last year, but did not pitch in the postseason. He made one appearance in the playoffs for Houston in 2015.

He's making a nice case for another chance this season. Fiers threw only two balls through the first two innings Saturday, and he allowed three runs or fewer for the ninth time in his last 10 starts. He struck out Xander Bogaerts for the third out of the fifth with runners on first and third.

Boston threatened again in the sixth, but with two on JaCoby Jones was able to run down Jackie Bradley Jr.'s drive at the warning track in left field. In the bottom of the inning, Jeimer Candelario hit a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0, and Iglesias added a two-run homer .

Fiers exited with runners at the corners in the seventh. Alex Wilson got Bogaerts to ground into a double play, ending the inning.

Boston star Mookie Betts had two hits, raising his big league-leading average to .355. He also made a superb catch in right field in the third, reaching above the wall to catch Leonys Martin's drive.

"I really needed that," Johnson said. "We're so lucky to have this outfield. It is almost scary how many times they make plays like that. They almost seem routine, but they really aren't."

The Red Sox have been held to one run so far in this series by Detroit, although they did win the opener 1-0 on Friday night.

"Boston's scored one run in two games, and that's hard to do," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That says a lot about our pitching staff."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: Devers (left shoulder inflammation) went 1 for 4. ... 2B Brock Holt, who left Friday's game with a bruised knee, was out of the lineup. Manager Alex Cora said he'd like to give Holt the weekend off. ... DH-OF J.D. Martinez had the day off after running into the wall while making a catch Friday. "These guys that make the All-Star Game, they really don't have an All-Star break," Cora said. "He's getting the day off because he ran into the wall, but I think it's a good day off for him anyway."

DENIED

Fiers wanted a chance to face Martinez, his college teammate from Nova Southeastern in Florida. It didn't happen.

"I've already texted him," Fiers said. "All my friends have texted him, too. They're not going to let him off easy."

UP NEXT

Boston ace Chris Sale (10-4) starts the series finale Sunday against Blaine Hardy (3-2). Sale is 5-1 with a 0.94 ERA in his last seven starts.

J.D. Martinez out of lineup, sore after crashing into wall

J.D. Martinez out of lineup, sore after crashing into wall

A night after crashing into the right-field wall making a catch in the third inning of their 1-0 victory in Detroit, J.D. Martinez is out of the Red Sox lineup.

Here's a look at the catch: 

The news of Martinez getting the night off prompted this exchange with reporters, via The Boston Globe's Peter Abraham.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora said the "general soreness" won't make him reluctant from using Martinez, second in the majors in homers with 29 and tops in RBI with 80, in the outfield, where he's played 39 games in his first season in Boston, compared to 54 at DH.

Mookie Betts is back in right Saturday, with Jackie Bradley Jr. in center and Andrew Benintendi in right.

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