One, two, three
The immaculate inning (three strikeouts on nine pitches in a single inning) is one of the most impressive feats in baseball. For one thing, it’s an incredibly rare achievement—there have been far fewer immaculate innings (104, by 95 pitchers) than no-hitters (313)—but it’s also astonishing to watch a pitcher be that unhittable.
Chris Sale is one of only seven pitchers to have thrown multiple immaculate innings and, by accomplishing the feat yet again on Thursday night against the Twins, he joined Sandy Koufax as one of the only two pitchers to have three of them.
Sale mowed down Nick Gordon, Andrelton Simmons and Rob Refsnyder by making them look silly. Gordon and Simmons got caught chasing high fastballs and Refsnyder was frozen by a slider at his knees. The whole inning took about three minutes.
Any time a pitcher is on any kind of list with just Koufax, it’s pretty amazing. That Sale was able to tie the record in just his third start back from Tommy John surgery is also worth admiring.
Even though he’s 18 months removed from reconstructive surgery, Sale is back to being his usual aggressive self on the mound. You saw it with those high heaters to Gordon and Simmons. You also saw it in the fifth inning when, after giving up a two-run homer to Willians Astudillo, Sale reared back and threw his two hardest pitches of the season, the fastest clocking in at 98.7 mph.
“That’s probably the most pissed I've been on a baseball field in a while,” Sale said of the homer. “That’s just coming out of anger and frustration. I like to call those F-U fastballs, I can’t really say the word. But I got pissed, I got going, and today was probably the best my mechanics have been start to finish.”
Overall, Sale pitched a solid game. He went 5 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on two hits with eight strikeouts and two walks in Boston’s 12–2 win. He was pleased with the performance, but not overjoyed.
“I guess it was good enough,” Sale told reporters. “I would have really liked to have gotten through that sixth inning. But hey, at this point you can’t really complain about it. I want to be better out there next time, I want to finish that inning. But coming back after a game like today, that puts you in a good mood, gets you on a good flight. Gets us off on the right foot for this next series in Cleveland.”
The Red Sox will need more starts like that from Sale if they’re going to hang on to that final wild card spot.
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