ST. LOUIS — What’s Chris Sale more proud of: tying a major league strikeout record or getting his first career hit?
It’s actually not much of a debate. The hit wins.
Sale was far more concerned with getting the ball from his third-inning broken-bat single than he was after striking out Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta to clinch his eighth consecutive start with 10 or more strikeouts, which tied Pedro Martinez’s 1999 record. The hit — and his ensuing slide into home to score the first run of what turned out to be a 2-1 White Sox win — was something Sale smiled about after the game.
“I’m not going to sit here and act like I did it on purpose,” Sale laughed. “I got lucky, I broke my bat, so that’s about as cheap of a hit as you possibly can get.”
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When it came to his more historically significant accomplishment, though, Sale was quick to deflect attention away from it.
“Probably the least of anybody, really,” Sale said when asked how much attention he paid to equaling Martinez’s record. “Those kinds of things don’t really matter to me. People that know me know it is what it is really. It’s cool that’s stuff you talk about later on. You start worrying about stuff like right now, and we won’t be talking about that anymore for sure.”
Only two other pitchers besides Sale and Martinez have struck out double digit batters in seven straight starts — the others being Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan and soon-to-be Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. Sale’s streak began with 10 strikeouts May 23 against Minnesota, and he followed that with 12, 13, 14, 12, 14, 10 and 12 strikeouts, totaling 97 over those eight starts. Martinez struck out 107 in his eight-game stretch 16 years ago.
While Sale allowed five runs in his previous start in Minnesota and the White Sox are only 4-4 during his streak (Boston went 7-1 during Martinez’s), it hasn’t detracted from his dominance.
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“It’s just hard to keep finding adjectives for him,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s great, again the numbers he’s piling up and the people that he keeps getting grouped in with and come up when you mention his name are impressive. They’re some of the greatest pitchers that have ever played our game.”
Sale, though, isn’t willing to look up and admire his accomplishments just yet. There’s still half a season to be played, and the White Sox are still nine games under .500.
At some point Sale will reflect on matching — or, if his next start goes well, breaking — a major league record, but it’s not now.
“It’s stuff you think about when you are a kid and stuff,” Sale said. “There’s a time and a place for that stuff, and it’s not now, not here. So, like I said in the offseason maybe we’ll kick it around a little bit, but I still have a job to do.”