Red Sox

No-hit stuff, secret handshakes, and the temptation of 20 K's - inside Chris Sale's latest masterpiece

No-hit stuff, secret handshakes, and the temptation of 20 K's - inside Chris Sale's latest masterpiece

BOSTON -- Twenty uniformed personnel took the field to start a dank, miserable evening at Fenway Park on Tuesday, including players, coaches, umpires, bat boys, and ball girls. Nineteen of them wore long sleeves to combat 44-degree temperatures that felt like late October.

The other was Chris Sale.

His knotty biceps defiantly exposed to the elements, Sale decided to bring an October feel to the yard, too. Except his contributions had nothing to do with heat and everything to do with electricity.

By the time he left the mound two hours later, after seven innings and a career-high 17 strikeouts, fans were chanting, "We want Sale." With the Bruins on the cusp of the Stanley Cup Finals and the Celtics hoping to conjure some more lottery magic, only an extraordinary performance could divert fans to an interleague baseball game, and hot damn if Sale didn't deliver.

Even with mist falling and the mercury dropping, Sale made Fenway Park crackle. He emphatically dispelled the notion that he is even remotely diminished by delivering his best outing in a Red Sox uniform, which is saying something.

Broadcaster Dennis Eckersley called it the best performance he had ever seen. Rockies slugger Nolan Arenado believed he was reliving the nightmare of Clayton Kershaw's 15-strikeout 2014 no-hitter. Red Sox manager Alex Cora admitted that a piece of him wanted to send Sale back out for the eighth inning and a shot at 20 strikeouts. And Sale?

"It was awesome," he said. "I love this game."

The record will show Brandon Workman served up the go-ahead two-run homer to Charlie Blackmon to deny Sale the win before the Rockies won it on Mark Reynolds' single in the 11th. But history will remember the game very differently because, on this night, Sale performed at a level matched perhaps only by Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens in a Red Sox uniform. If there's been a similar game in the last 20 years, it was Pedro dropping a 1-0 decision to Steve Trachsel, of all people, while striking out 17 himself in May of 2000.

"That was fun to watch," Cora said of Sale. "The first time being in something like that, you know? Watching the strikeouts and watching the pitch count. You want him to go as deep as possible."

Sale's velocity, the barometer by which we gauged him in his terrible start, was hardly vintage. He hit 96 mph once on the stadium gun, though Baseball Savant technically had the pitch at 95.9 mph. He threw only 10 fastballs above 94 mph, instead content to treat the Rockies like so many cats swatting at so much yarn.

His slider was otherworldly, alternately sweeping, darting, and biting. The Rockies only touched two of his 12 changeups, including a foul ball. He threw but one curveball, which Pat Valaika dutifully flailed at for strikeout No. 8 to end the third inning. He had pinpoint command of his entire arsenal.

You want mastery? This was mastery.

"When he went eight of nine to start the game, he could've had no fielders out there and we'd still have been losing," Reynolds said.

Sale made but one mistake, and Arenado didn't miss it, sneaking a 92 mph fastball into the Monster seats to pull the Rockies within a run at 3-2 in the seventh. 

Sale kicked himself for trying to get a double play grounder against a superstar. Arenado breathed a sigh of relief.

"It was getting a little scary there," he said. "I thought a no-hitter was coming. In '14 we faced Kershaw and he threw a no-hitter at home and it was kind of like that, where he was just kind of dominant. I feel like we kind of just stole that one.

"What he did today was pretty unique. He struck out a lot of us."

Sale recorded strikeouts with every one of his pitches: four-seamer, two-seamer, slider, curve, change. Colorado had no idea what was coming as he constantly varied his plan of attack.

"A lot of people were worried and making a deal about him not pitching well at the beginning of the year, but over the course of a season he's going to be dominant, and you saw that tonight," said Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta. "That kind of stuff, all you have to do is throw strikes and he was definitely throwing strikes, and on top of that, he was throwing quality strikes. We have a really good team and a really good lineup, but he's a great pitcher. And great pitching always shuts down a great offense."

Sale wanted to come back out for the eighth despite being at 108 pitches, joking with Cora, "You're not going to let me get 20?" But the manager has two handshakes for his starters, and he gave Sale the one that said, "You're done."

"I don't think there's a pitcher on the planet, you've got 17 punchouts, you definitely want to go out for the last inning, but I respect him as much as anybody on the planet and I'll never question anything he does," Sale said.

Sale instead settled for the first seven-inning, 17-strikeout start in major league history. Coming on the heels of a brilliant 14-strikeout effort against the Orioles, it was the kind of performance that makes you want to fast-forward five days just to see what magic Sale has planned for us next.

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How Colten Brewer delivered three key outs in tense Red Sox victory over Twins

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

How Colten Brewer delivered three key outs in tense Red Sox victory over Twins

Rick Porcello had given the Red Sox all they could expect in Minnesota on Monday, protecting a 1-0 lead for seven innings. When manager Alex Cora signaled the bullpen to start the eighth, he didn't tab Brandon Workman or Matt Barnes, however.

He went to . . . Colten Brewer?

With his four top relievers unavailable for various reasons — Heath Hembree on the IL, Brandon Workman and Marcus Walden from recent use, Matt Barnes needing a break — Cora sent the curve-balling right-hander to the mound with simple instructions.

"Be ready, be nasty, and be yourself," Brewer relayed to reporters in Minnesota after protecting that 1-0 lead in what ended up being a 2-0 win that gave the suddenly streaking Red Sox six straight victories and a chance to win a series against a playoff team for the first time since sweeping the Rays in April.

This one was about the pitching staff, from Porcello's seven shutout innings to Brewer and Ryan Brasier slamming the door. For all the slings and arrows they've absorbed this season, Red Sox relievers have actually pitched fairly well. That doesn't mean they don't need help — they're being overused, after all — but they might be better than people think.

"People think it's short," manager Alex Cora said to reporters in reference to his bullpen. "I think it's just limited because those guys have good stuff. Matchup-wise, Brew makes sense with a lot of those guys. And obviously Brasier was fresh so we went with him. Sometimes I made the mistake of saying short. It's not short, it's just limited."

The eighth wasn't easy, but the Twins helped Brewer's cause after a leadoff single by Jonathan Schoop and a walk to Max Kepler. First, the AL's leading hitter, Jorge Polanco, sacrifice bunted the runners along, giving Brewer a key out in the process. With Rafael Devers covering third, Brewer aggressively pounced off the mound before throwing a strike to first to nip Polanco by a half step.

He then induced a swinging bunt to power-hitting Nelson Cruz, deftly underhanding the ball to catcher Sandy Leon to trap Schoop in a rundown that took the Twins right out of the inning. When Eddie Rosario grounded to first, Brewer had officially escaped one of the biggest moments of his career.

"That's what we live for as baseball players, getting in the situations and getting out of them," Brewer said. "It's definitely a special moment to share with your teammates."

That still left the ninth inning, which brought yet another surprise: Brasier, who left the team last week while on the bereavement list. Making his first appearance in a week, Brasier delivered a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out the dangerous Miguel Sano to end it. It was just his second clean inning this month.

"That's what I expect," Brasier said. "The bullpen has been taxed a little bit the last three or four games and I was ready to go."

Add it together, and two unlikely contributors helped the Red Sox secure one of their most important victories of the season.

"We're rolling right now and to keep it rolling against a team like that and to scratch some runs together and keep them off the board is huge," Brasier said.

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Suspect in David Ortiz shooting ordered to one year in preventive prison, DR authorities identify man who paid hit men

Suspect in David Ortiz shooting ordered to one year in preventive prison, DR authorities identify man who paid hit men

A suspect in the attempted killing of Red Sox legend David Ortiz was ordered to one year of preventive prison Monday. 

The man, nicknamed "Bone," and whose real name is Gabriel Alexander Perez Vizcaino, has been accused of being a liaison between the alleged hit men and the person who paid them, according to the Associated Press. Dominican authorities said they were "closing in" on the mastermind and the motive behind the attack on Ortiz. 

UPDATE -- 12:07 a.m.

DR authorities identify the man they say paid the hitmen who carried out the Ortiz shooting. His name is Alberto Miguel Rodriguez Mota, a judge announced at a hearing for Perez, nicknamed "Bone." Mota is believed to be a fugitive. 

Court documents stated that a man in prison for an unrelated case reached out to Perez regarding the alleged job a week before the shooting took place and sent him a picture for Perez to show it to the hit men. It is unknown to this point if the person pictured was Ortiz. 

Documents also state Perez sold the phone he used to plan the attack the day after the shooting in order to get rid of evidence. 

Perez is one of 10 suspects detained, but authorities are still looking for two more people, including the man accused of paying the hit men. 

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