Jason Varitek was a tough act to follow. The former Red Sox captain was revered by fans and had the utmost respect from members of the Red Sox pitching staff. He left Jarrod Saltalamacchia big shoes to fill, but the young switch-hitting backstop has taken well to being the go-to guy behind the plate.
On Tuesday, Jon Lester said he has noticed how Saltalamacchia has run with his new role this season now that Varitek is out of the picture.
"He came to us with a big name -- no pun intended," Lester said of Saltalamacchia. "He had a big reputation for who he was as a catcher and offensive player and I think now he's just trying to -- not trying -- I think now he's just feeling comfortable. He knows his role.
"He knows you know, as much as 'Tek helps, I think having him not here helps, as well. You know, you don't have that presence breathing down your neck. Like I said, obviously it's nice to have 'Tek here, but I think for Salty to get out from underneath that shadow and now it's his pitching staff and he's done a great job."
BALTIMORE - Chris Sale struck out 13 to become the first AL pitcher in 18 years to reach the 300 mark, and the Boston Red Sox moved to the brink of clinching a playoff berth by beating the Baltimore Orioles 9-0 on Wednesday night.
Sale (17-7) reached the milestone on his last pitch, a called third strike against Ryan Flaherty to end the eighth inning. The last AL pitcher to fan 300 batters in a season was Boston's Pedro Martinez in 1999, when he set a club record with 313.
Mookie Betts and Deven Marrero homered for the Red Sox, who reduced their magic number for reaching the postseason to one. If the Angels lost to Cleveland later Wednesday night, Boston would be assured no worse than a wild-card spot in the AL playoffs.
The Red Sox, of course, would prefer to enter as AL East champions. They hold a three-game lead over the second-place Yankees with 10 games left.
After winning two straight 11-inning games over the skidding Orioles, Boston jumped to a 6-0 lead in the fifth and coasted to its 11th win in 14 games.
BALTIMORE — One of the greatest seasons for a pitcher in Red Sox history saw a milestone toppled Wednesday night.
In a dominant start vs. the Orioles at Camden Yards, Chris Sale became the first American League pitcher this century to strike out 300 batters in a season. He also put himself in striking distance of the Red Sox single-season record for Ks, 313.
Sale is the 14th different pitcher since 1920 to reach the 300 mark. The only other pitcher to do so in a Red Sox uniform was Pedro Martinez, who set the club record of 313 in 1999.
Sale was at 12 strikeouts and 99 pitches through seven innings Wednesday night with the Sox ahead 6-0. The offense added two more runs in the top of the inning, prompting Sox manager John Farrell to warm up righty Austin Maddox.
But Sale nonetheless took the mound. The first two batters of the inning grounded out. On a 2-2 pitch to the left-handed hitting Ryan Flaherty, Sale threw a front-door slider that caught Flaherty looking. It was his 111th pitch of the night.
Sale has two more scheduled starts, although he may only make one more.
His final appearance of the regular season projects to be Game No. 162 against the Astros. If the Sox have the American League East wrapped up, Sale could well be held out of that game.
The Sox and Astros meet for four games to end the regular season at Fenway Park, and may be first-round opponents if the Indians maintain the best record in the AL and therefore home field advantage.
The last time a pitcher in either league struck out 300 was 2015, when Clayton Kershaw did so for the Dodgers.
Sale was in line for his 17th win Wednesday, tying his career high.