Just as every MLB team has to do every regular season, the Boston Red Sox were tasked with finding pitchers to start 162 games in 2019. Even in the age of the opener, someone has to go out and start that first inning. The results vary dramatically, with some ending shortly when a pitcher is clobbered and others going into the deeper innings as the starter is either chasing some sort of perfection or no-hit glory or just hanging zeroes efficiently enough to keep the bullpen quiet.
The Red Sox didn’t have any no-hitters or perfect games in 2019 and their overall pitching performance left plenty to be desired, but there were still some pretty special starts to go around. Since we’re nearing the end of the year, I thought it would be fun to celebrate the 10 best from the 2019 Red Sox. This list is ordered based on FanGraph’s Game Score metric, so if you’d like make your own list with other criteria, throw it in the comments or in a FanPost.
10. Sept 14 - Eduardo Rodriguez at Philadelphia Phillies
Stat Line: 6 2⁄3 innings, four hits, one earned run, one walk, 12 strikeouts
Game Score: 81
Sorry for the spoiler, but this is the only time Rodriguez appears on this list. That may seem ludicrous considering how well he pitched down the stretch and his level of consistency, but this gem in which he struck out a season-high 12 batters across 6 2⁄3 innings stands out as his crowning achievement for the year. Of course, that consistency I just wrote about is why Rodriguez led all Red Sox pitchers in fWAR (3.7), as he averaged a game score of 57, which ranked second among Boston’s starters.
9. June 17 - Rick Porcello at Minnesota Twins
Stat Line: Seven innings, four hits, one walk, eight strikeouts
Game Score: 82
Porcello certainly had a down year in his final campaign with the Red Sox, but he was able to recapture some of his 2016 Cy Young magic a few times in 2019. In this June outing against the eventual AL Central champion Twins, Porcello held a normally potent lineup scoreless for seven innings, besting José Berríos in the process.
8. July 18 - Chris Sale vs. Toronto Blue Jays
Stat Line: Six innings, two hits, two walks, 12 strikeouts
Game Score: 82
I’ll have to use a little subjectivity here since Sale and Porcello technically tied for the No. 8 spot, but I’ll take the strikeouts over the innings in this case. Sale also had his struggles this season but the Blue Jays didn’t seem to notice in this one. Sale only pitched to 22 batters in this contest and even when the Blue Jays did get the bat on the ball, they usually hit it on the ground, with Sale posting a groundball rate of 75 percent in the game.
7. June 10 - Chris Sale vs. Texas Rangers
Stat Line: Seven innings, three hits, one unearned run, one walk, 10 strikeouts
Game Score: 83
I guess the scoring system disagrees with me and prefers more innings. This was Sale’s second straight start without allowing an unearned run, so maybe he should have gone longer. I’m sure he would have liked to since the Red Sox ultimately lost this game 4-3 in extra innings with the bullpen letting the Rangers score two in the top of the ninth.
6. May 14 - Chris Sale vs. Colorado Rockies
Stat Line: Seven innings, three hits, two earned runs, 17 strikeouts
Game Score: 83
Sale racked up strikeouts like they were on clearance and as we established, that’s the tiebreaker for me since this had the same game score as the No. 7 entry. In fact, by the time Sale had taken one spin through the Rockies’ lineup, he already had eight. Unfortunately, he was tagged for a two-run home run in the seventh by Nolan Arenado and the Red Sox would go on to lose the game as a whole. Despite the poor result, Sale’s work through the first six innings of this game was so incredible it can’t be washed away by one bad pitch in the seventh.
5. April 14 - David Price vs. Baltimore Orioles
Stat Line: Seven innings, three hits, seven strikeouts
Game Score: 85
Price didn’t have his best stuff in his first two starts of the season but that changed in his third. This was his only outing of the year in which he went at least seven innings and there really was no reason to take him out any sooner. Price scattered three hits across those seven frames, was locked in with his control and struck out a batter an inning. He did let the Orioles elevate a bit too much, allowing 14 fly balls to three ground balls but that didn’t sour the end result, especially as the Orioles failed to score a run.
4. April 30 - Rick Porcello vs. Oakland Athletics
Stat Line: Eight innings, two hits, two walks, eight strikeouts
Game Score: 90
Prior to this game, Porcello had allowed at least two and as many as seven earned runs in his first five starts of the season. He was able to cut what had become a bloated ERA down quite a bit by dominating Oakland for eight innings. This was one of three outings in which he did not allow a run in 2019, including the start against Minnesota from earlier on this list and a six-inning start against the Tampa Bay Rays on Sept. 20.
3. May 8 - Chris Sale at Baltimore Orioles
Stat Line: Eight innings, three hits, one earned run, 14 strikeouts
Game Score: 95
This game marked one of 14 starts in which Sale struck out at least 10 batters in 2019. He would go on to tally 17 strikeouts in the start after this one, but he was better against Baltimore, allowing just one run and pitching eight frames. Unfortunately, he did not factor in the decision of the game, as the Red Sox offense only scored one run in the first 11 innings before finally pulling out the victory in the 12th.
2. August 8 - Chris Sale vs. Los Angeles Angels
Stat Line: Eight innings, two hits, 13 strikeouts
Game Score: 99
Sale would only pitch once more in 2019 after this game but even if this came near the end, it was one of his best efforts. He silenced the Angels for eight innings, even striking out eventual AL MVP Mike Trout twice, as he helped the Red Sox capture a 3-0 victory. The outing earned him his sixth and final win of the season.
1. June 5 - Chris Sale at Kansas City Royals
Stat Line: Nine innings, three hits, 12 strikeouts
Game Score: 102
Eight shutout innings are great but nine shutout innings are better. In his lone complete game of the season and the only one by a Boston pitcher in 2019, Sale sliced through the Kansas City lineup, surrendering three measly singles and striking out batters at will. It’s starts like this and his five others on this list that show Sale can still dominate even in an uneven season by his standards.