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WEEI » This Just In » Leon: Sale pitched 'best game I ever caught'
Thu, 04/20/2017 - 8:31pm  

Leon: Sale pitched 'best game I ever caught'

TORONTO — You can start with the numbers.

In case you forgot, Pedro Martinez was really good in his first starts with the Red Sox. He pitched 32 innings three runs for an 0.84 ERA. Opponents hit .148 against him, with Martinez striking out 44 and walking seven.

Chris Sale?

After his eight innings in the Red Sox’ 4-1, 10-inning win against the Blue Jays, is sitting with an 0.91 ERA, having allowed three runs in 29 2/3 innings. He has struck out 42, walked six and allowed a .147 batting average.

But it’s more than that. It’s the image he’s portraying. Complete dominance.

In this case, it was a 102-pitch outing in which he struck out 13, and didn’t allow a run. And while he was torturing such Blue Jays hitters as Jose Bautista (4 strikeouts) and Jarrod Saltalmacchia (3 strikeouts), Sale was throwing virtually every pitch for a strike. There was 80 of them, to be exact.

It left an impression.

“It’s the best game I’ve ever caught,” said Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon. “He was throwing every pitch in every count. He likes to attack.”

As Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis explained when talking about watching Sale, “It’s different.”

You know it when you see it. You did when Pedro pitched. Willis realized it back when serving as the coach for Cliff Lee, C.C. Sabathia and Felix Hernandez, all of whom went on Cy Young runs. It’s just different. That’s how watching Sale has felt.

“The pace he works. The strikes that he throws. The confidence that he throws each pitch with, regardless of the speed,” Willis said. “I think that’s the key. He’ll show you 96 or 97 [mph], then he will reel it back at 91 or 88 and then he will change speed with the breaking ball. And it’s all with total confidence and conviction. I’ve seen guys have good runs. The way Chris does it, some of the movement he gets, and some of the swings you see him get, it’s just different.”

Yes, the Red Sox don’t score runs for Sale. They didn’t before Thursday, and they couldn’t get one before the starter exited his latest outing. The same thing happened to Martinez in his first season with the Red Sox, with his new club scoring more than three runs just twice over his first nine starts.

It’s no coincidence. These are the guys who pitch at a level where opposing pitchers know they have to be their absolute best. It’s part of the deal.

“Nobody is perfect,” Sale said. “Get after these four days and try and do the same thing next time around.”

True enough. But around these parts, this seems as close to pitching perfection as we’ve seen in some time.

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