Chris Sale doesn't seem to care much about his statistics that glow like a barrel of nuclear waste. He's mostly concerned about throwing that nuclear slider of his in the right place. Then doing it again in his next start and the one after that, and then especially doing it in the postseason, that promised land he has never reached before.
After allowing seven runs to the Cleveland Indians in his previous start -- the second time in August that the Indians scored seven off him -- you know he was itching to get back on the mound and dominate like he has against every other team. In Tuesday's start in Toronto, he took a one-hitter into the eighth inning, and finished with 11 strikeouts over seven-plus scoreless innings in the Boston Red Sox's 3-0 victory.
"It seemed like a month ago," Sale told reporters after the game about that last outing. "Any time you go out there and have a bad one, you want to get right back out there. As a competitor and being in sports, that's what you want to do, you want to go back out there and right the ship."
Sale turned to that slider to shut down the Blue Jays. Here's how he did it, courtesy of Sarah Langs of ESPN Stats & Info:
He used his slider 41 percent of the time, the fourth time this season he has used his slider at least 41 percent of the time. He hasn't allowed more than a run in any of those starts.
A lot of what he did was much more like the first-half Sale, rather than the guy who had a 5.40 ERA in August. He got swinging strikes on 27 percent of his sliders, his third-highest rate this season and highest since late June.
He got first-pitch strikes against 75 percent of batters, his highest rate since July 6.
Along the way, he reached a milestone with his 1,500th career strikeout:
Chris Sale strikes out Kevin Pillar for his 1,500th career strikeout. He's the fastest ever to reach the 1,500-K plateau, in terms of IP. pic.twitter.com/B82o5yDwHx— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 29, 2017
"I appreciate it," Sale said. "I try not to get too caught up in it, but I definitely take a step back and look at it and appreciate it." That's a different tone from his postgame comments back in July, when he didn't want to talk about his successful start. "I'm not here to talk about that kind of crap, man," Sale said back then. "We have a long way to go. A long way to go; we have a lot of work to do."
So he probably doesn't care too much that his Game Score of 82 was his fifth this season of 80-plus, matching Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer and Cleveland's Corey Kluber for most in the majors. He probably doesn't care that he passed Joe Wood to take over fourth place on the single-season Red Sox strikeout list. With 264, he's on pace for 324, which would break Pedro Martinez's team record of 313 set in 1999.
What Sale most cares about is holding off the New York Yankees for the American League East crown. That lead is up to four games after the Yankees were rained out Tuesday. You might not want to miss Sale's next start: Sunday at Yankee Stadium.
Texas Rangers vs. Houston Astros in St. Pete. The Astros were scheduled to host the Rangers, but the series was moved to Tropicana Field after the horrific flooding Hurricane Harvey has caused in Houston and the Texas coast. The series didn't come without some controversy, however, when Astros president Reid Ryan directed some passive-aggressive comments toward the Rangers.
"We went to the Rangers and said, 'Hey, let's switch series,'" Ryan said. "They rejected that and didn't want to do that. The Rangers wanted us to play the next three days at their place, but they did not want to trade series with us."
It's hard to blame the Rangers. They could have switched series with the Astros -- they host them in the final week of the season -- and while that certainly would've been the kindest gesture, it also would have shortchanged Rangers ticket-holders who had tickets for that September series and couldn't switch up on short notice. You can't blame the Astros for not wanting to play their home series in Arlington, Texas, at the stadium of their in-state rivals, even if that would have drawn more fans -- and thus brought in more revenue -- than a game in St. Petersburg, Florida. So moving the series to Tropicana Field was probably the most viable option.
On the field, it was all Rangers in a 12-2 victory. Joey Gallo returned after missing seven games with a concussion and promptly mashed his 36th home run. That's 36 home runs and 36 other hits. No qualified regular has ever had half his hits go for home runs. So, yes, Joey Gallo is as uniquely wonderful as you thought.
The $30,000 home run. St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Carpenter went to high school in Missouri City, Texas, a suburb of Houston, so he has strong ties to the area. He pledged $10,000 for every home run he hits the rest of the season for Hurricane Harvey relief, a total that Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals organization promised to match. Carpenter homered for the first time since making the pledge on Tuesday, off Carlos Torres in the fifth inning in the Cardinals' 10-2 win over the Brewers.
"For me, that was the most meaningful home run I've hit in my career, just because what it means for families down in Houston. That was a $30,000 swing," Carpenter told the media during a televised huddle in the clubhouse after the game. Luke Weaver had another strong start as well with his second straight 10-strikeout outing. The Cardinals are still lurking.
Dylan Bundy throws one of the best games in Baltimore Orioles history. On a wet night in Baltimore, Bundy dominated the Mariners with a one-hit shutout and 12 strikeouts, after rejoining the team after attending his grandmother's funeral. First off, it was the first shutout by an Orioles pitcher since Miguel Gonzalez on Sept. 3, 2014. That was a streak of 479 games without an Orioles starter recording a shutout, the longest active streak and sixth-longest in MLB history. So great job, Dylan Bundy!
But it was even better than just a mere shutout. Bundy's Game Score of 95 tied for third-highest in Orioles history in a nine-game inning:
That's six in a row for the Orioles. They're suddenly lurking in that AL wild-card race. (Seriously, how do they do this? I don't know if I want Buck Showalter managing my team in a playoff game, but I'll take him in the regular season.)
Giancarlo Stanton homers again. I'm not going to show his first-inning home run, however. Instead, I'm going to give you a link to all 51 because who doesn't want to watch 51 Giancarlo Stanton home runs?
The Royals score! The Kansas City Royals ended their scoreless streak at 45 innings. Whit Merrifield did the honors with a third-inning home run and the Royals went on to a 6-2 victory over the Rays as Eric Hosmer added a big three-run shot. I'm a little sad about this. Nothing against the Royals. But ... come on, if you're going to get this close to historic futility, go all the way. Most consecutive innings without a run:
1968 Cubs: 48
1906 Athletics: 48
2017 Royals: 45
1931 Reds: 45
Finally ... the Los Angeles Dodgers lose. Again. That's three losses in a row, the first time since June 5-7 that has happened. I guess it was fun while it lasted. The Arizona Diamondbacks held on for the 7-6 win on Tuesday night. They've played the Dodgers tough this season, going 6-8 against them, but actually outscoring them 66-64. If Arizona gets past the NL wild-card game, that could be a tough matchup for the Dodgers.