Chris Sale
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Video: Chris Sale earns his 200th strikeout of 2018


On Friday, Chris Sale did what Chris Sale does best: demolish MLB records that he already holds. The Red Sox hurler hit the 200-strikeout mark in 136 innings, faster than any MLB pitcher this season and also faster than any other pitcher in AL history. Per’s Ian Browne, it’s a record the lefty already held: He became the fastest pitcher to 200 strikeouts all the way back in… well, 2017, when he reached that mark in just 141 1/3 innings.

Fans didn’t have to wait long for the record-setting whiff this time around. It came during the first frame of Friday’s game against the Twins, on a 99.4-m.p.h. fastball that blew past Mitch Garver to bring the inning to a close.

Sale delivered an even 10 strikeouts in six innings, holding the Twins scoreless on three hits and two walks. He got into a little bit of hot water in the fourth inning after issuing a walk to Ehire Adrianza, plunking Max Kepler, and walking Robbie Grossman to load the bases, but wriggled out of that jam with another full-count, inning-ending strikeout against Jake Cave. Saturday marked the southpaw’s 10th outing with 10+ strikeouts and his sixth scoreless outing of the year.

The Red Sox’ ace may have been the first to reach the 200-strikeout plateau on Friday, but he wasn’t the only one. Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer delivered an equally masterful performance against the Marlins (on his 34th birthday, to boot), tossing eight innings of three-hit, one-run, 11-strikeout ball for his 14th win of the year. His last at-bat of the night — a called strikeout against Spencer Kieboom in the top of the ninth — yielded the last strikeout he needed to reach no. 200. He’s now racked up 200+ strikeouts in the past seven consecutive MLB seasons and is tied for the second-longest run in major league history. He’ll need to repeat the feat in 2019 and 2020 to tie Tom Seaver’s all-time record of nine straight seasons.

Three other pitchers are nearing the 200-strikeout plateau as well: the Indians’ Trevor Bauer (192), Astros’ Gerrit Cole (186) and Justin Verlander (183). Neither Bauer nor Cole are scheduled to pitch this weekend, however, and while Verlander is penciled in for Saturday’s game against the Rangers’ Ariel Jurado, it would take a record performance to bridge a 17-strikeout gap during this series.

Nationals GM Rizzo won’t reveal length of Martinez’s new contract

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WASHINGTON — Dave Martinez spoke Saturday about managing the Washington Nationals for “many, many years” and over the “long term” and “quite some time,” thanks to his contract extension.

Sharing a table to a socially distanced degree with his manager on a video conference call to announce the new deal – each member of the duo sporting a 2019 World Series ring on his right hand – Nationals GM Mike Rizzo referred to the agreement’s “multiyear” nature, but repeatedly refused to reveal anything more specific in response to reporters’ questions.

“We don’t talk about terms as far as years, length and salaries and that type of thing. We’re comfortable with what we have and the consistency that we’re going to have down the road,” said Rizzo, who recently agreed to a three-year extension of his own. “That’s all we want to say about terms, because it’s private information and we don’t want you guys to know about it.”

When Martinez initially was hired by Rizzo in October 2017 – his first managing job at any level – the Nationals’ news release at the time announced that he was given a three-year contract with an option for a fourth year.

That 2021 option had not yet been picked up.

“The partnership that Davey and I have together, our communication styles are very similar. Our aspirations are similar, and kind of our mindset of how to obtain the goals that we want to obtain are similar. I think it’s a good match,” Rizzo said. “We couldn’t have hit on a more positive and enthusiastic leader in the clubhouse. I think you see it shine through even in the most trying times.”

The Nationals entered Saturday – Martinez’s 56th birthday – with a 23-34 record and in last place in the NL East, which Rizzo called “a disappointing season.” The team’s title defense was slowed by injuries and inconsistency during a 60-game season delayed and shortened by the coronavirus pandemic.

World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg threw just five innings because of a nerve issue in his pitching hand and players such as Starlin Castro, Sean Doolittle, Tanner Rainey, Adam Eaton and Carter Kieboom finished the year on the IL.

“This year, for me, we didn’t get it done. We had a lot of bumps in the road this year. But I really, fully believe, we’ve got the core guys here that we need to win another championship,” Martinez said. “I know Mike, myself, we’re going to spend hours and hours and hours trying to fill the void with guys we think can potentially help us in the future. And we’ll be back on the podium. I’m really confident about that.”

Rizzo was asked Saturday why the team announces contract lengths for players, as is common practice around the major leagues, but wouldn’t do so in this instance for Martinez.

“The reason is we don’t want anybody to know. That’s the reason,” Rizzo said, before asking the reporter: “How much do you make? How many years do you have?”

Moments later, as the back-and-forth continued, Rizzo said: “It’s kind of an individual thing with certain people. I don’t want you to know what I make or how many years I have. Davey doesn’t want you to know. And I think that it’s only fair … when people don’t want certain information out there, that we don’t give it.”

There were some calling for Martinez to lose his job last season when Washington got off to a 19-31 start. But Rizzo stood by his manager, and the team eventually turned things around, going 74-38 the rest of the way to reach the playoffs as an NL wild-card team.

The Nationals then beat the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals to reach the World Series, where they beat the Houston Astros in Game 7.

Washington joined the 1914 Boston Braves as the only teams in major league history to win a World Series after being 12 games below .500 during a season.

“Everything from Day 1 to where he’s gotten to now, he’s grown so much. He’s really become one of my favorite managers of all,” three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer said after helping Washington win Saturday’s opener of a doubleheader against the New York Mets. “Davey really understands how to manage a clubhouse, manage a team. We saw it in the postseason. He knows how to push the right buttons when everything is on the line.”