BOSTON -- Eight was enough for Chris Sale.
On the cusp of setting a modern-era single-season record with his ninth consecutive start with at least 10 strikeouts, the Boston Red Sox ace lefty fanned only six Texas Rangers batters, his lowest total of the season.
But there wasn't a soul in Fenway Park on Wednesday night that probably cared less about the so-called record than Sale, who said after a start last week in Oakland that he would "rather be 8-0 with no punchouts." It was far more meaningful, then, for Sale that the Red Sox rallied for seven runs in the seventh inning, digging him out of a 3-1 hole in the process.
Despite a long break during the bottom of the seventh, Sale came back out and gave up two hits, including an RBI single. He was lifted for reliever Joe Kelly with the Red Sox leading 8-4.
Sale now has had two streaks of eight consecutive starts with at least 10 strikeouts, having also achieved the feat in 2015 with the Chicago White Sox. Pedro Martinez (1999 with the Red Sox) is the only other pitcher with a streak of eight straight double-digit strikeout starts.
Sale didn't give up a hit Wednesday until the fifth inning, when ex-Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli broke a 1-1 tie with a solo home run over the Green Monster. The Rangers scored another run in the inning on Ryan Rua's double and an RBI single by Joey Gallo.
For four innings, Sale looked well on his way to another overpowering start. He opened the game by fanning leadoff man Delino DeShields on a 97 mph fastball, then got Rougned Odor to chase a dirt-diving slider and Napoli to wave at an elevated fastball in the second inning. Robinson Chirinos struck out on a 96 mph heater to end the third inning.
The Rangers got their first baserunner in the fourth inning, when DeShields worked a leadoff walk, advanced to second base on a passed ball and later scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly by Elvis Andrus.
When Sale struck out Odor again to open the fifth, he joined Randy Johnson (2000, 2001), Pedro Martinez (1999, 2001), Curt Schilling (1998, 2002) and Roger Clemens (1998) as the only pitchers since 1900 with 100 strikeouts in his first 10 starts of a season, according to research from ESPN Stats & Information.
Sale didn't record another strikeout until Rua in the seventh inning, a span of 10 batters. Of course, that meant nothing to Sale, because the score at the time was tilted against the Red Sox.
But his dominance hasn't been lost on Boston manager John Farrell.
"An incredible position to be in, one that personally I could never envision," Farrell said before the game of the potential for nine straight 10-strikeout starts. "You just marvel at the ability to get so much swing and miss. You combine it with the competitive spirit he has.
"I think we're in the midst of a season that will be something that will be remembered by a lot of people for a long period of time. I know we have a long way to go in this season, but the start that he's off to here is starting to get in very, very select company."