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Chris Sale making strikeout history, and on pace for more

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White Sox single-season records in play after another 10-K start

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

DID YOU KNOW: The last time Chris Sale struck out fewer than 10 batters in a game...

  • There were only 48 stars on the American flag?
  • The Union Stock Yards and Pullman Palace Car Company employed 87 percent of South Siders?
  • Parents wrestled with explaining "jazz" to their children?
  • Flappers box socials Model T keep cool with Coolidge?

If you didn't, good. None of those things are true. Except for maybe the last one.

It does kinda feel that way, though. By striking out 12 Cardinals on Tuesday night, Sale tied Peak Pedro Martinez with eight consecutive starts of 10 strikeouts or more.

You have to go May 18, 2015, to find the last time The Condor failed to reach double digits in K's. That night, he only struck out seven over eight innings of one-run ball in that memorable duel against Corey Kluber. That was also the last and only time the Sox were over .500 this year, and I imagine Sale would trade his strikeout streak for winning streaks over the last 1½ months.

Such a trade isn't possible, though. Hell, the Sox had lost three consecutive Sale starts before their extra-innings victory over the Cardinals. As individual feats go, this is a pretty remarkable consolation prize.

Date IP H R ER HR BB K GSc
May 23 8 5 4 3 2 1 10 67
May 28 7.2 4 0 0 0 0 12 83
June 3 7 3 0 0 0 2 13 82
June 8 8 5 1 1 0 1 14 81
June 14 6.2 3 2 2 1 3 12 69
June 19 8 2 0 0 0 0 14 92
June 24 6.2 9 6 5 0 1 10 43
June 30 8 6 1 1 1 1 12 79
3-3, 1.80 ERA 60 37 14 12 4 9 97 75

In the process, Sale lowered his ERA below 3.00 (2.87), and seized ownership of the swing-and-miss leaderboards.

Strikeouts: Sale leads all of baseball with 141, one more than Clayton Kershaw (who has thrown one more start). Chris Archer is second in the American League with 133, but he's started two more games.

Strikeout rate: He's up to 12.28 strikeouts per nine innings, which is a half-strikeout ahead of Kershaw (11.78), and more than one over Archer in the AL (10.98).

Strikeouts per walk: At 6.41, Sale has crept past Phil Hughes by one-hundredth of a strikeout, and trails only Michael Pineda (7.92) in the American League.

We've discussed his case to start the All-Star Game for the American League before, and his case remains the same -- it's a choice between stuff and a hot streak versus the season-long consistency of Dallas Keuchel or Sonny Gray.

What's new now? He's on pace to make White Sox pitching history, which is pretty impressive when considering Ed Walsh and his 400-inning seasons are included in the pool.

Walsh owns the top four spots on the White Sox single-season leaderboard for strikeouts:

  1. Walsh, 269, 1908
  2. Walsh, 258, 1910
  3. Walsh, 255, 1911
  4. Walsh, 254, 1912
  5. Sale, 226, 2013

But with 141 strikeouts through 15 starts -- and one more start before the season's halfway mark -- he's launching an assault on Big Ed's strangehold.

Sale may not make his maximum number of starts, whether because of his traditional minor ailment, or because the Sox are mathematically eliminated and so there's no reason to push him all the way to the finish line. Even accounting for a skipped turn or two, he's building up a little room for regression:

  • 29 starts: 273
  • 30 starts: 282
  • 31 starts: 291

Which is cool, because no MLB pitcher has even reached 280 strikeouts since Randy Johnson in 2004 (he struck out 290).

Even better: If he makes as many starts in the second half as he does in the first:

  • 32 starts: 301