Boston Red Sox pitchers set franchise record for strikeouts

Eduardo Rodriguez and the Boston Red Sox bullpen combined for a franchise record 28 strikeouts in Sunday’s win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Eduardo Rodriguez set the tone for the Boston Red Sox with a career-high 13 strikeouts and the bullpen kept the trend going.

The Red Sox pitching staff combined for a franchise record 23 strikeouts in a win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday. Only four other teams have ever punched out that many batters in a game in major league history, with the Angels owning the record of 26 strikeouts in a game back in 2004. All of those teams needed extra-innings to pile up that many K’s, but the Red Sox 10-inning victory makes them the only team that has done it in a game that didn’t go into at least the 16th inning.

23 of the 40 Rays hitters that came to the plate went down by way of the K, giving Red Sox pitchers a staggering 58 percent strikeout rate. No team has struck out more than Tampa Bay this season, but this is an impressive performance against any major league team.

At one point Red Sox pitchers recorded a major league record 11 consecutive strikeouts, surpassing the previous mark set by Tom Seaver in 1970. Rodriguez started the stretch by fanning Richie Shaffer to end the fourth inning and the streak would last through Shaffer’s next trip to the plate when he punched out against Heath Hembree to end the seventh.

Hembree was outstanding in wrapping up that streak, retiring all five batters that he faced after taking over for Rodriguez. While E-Rod pitched brilliantly, limiting the Rays to a run on three hits, racking up all those strikeouts also drove up his pitch count. Not wanting to over-exert the young lefty, manager John Farrell pulled his starter after 113 pitches with only one out in the sixth inning.

The only Red Sox pitcher utilized in this game that failed to record at least one strikeout was Fernando Abad, who faced only one batter. The lefty specialist allowed an RBI single to Brad Miller to tie the game, drawing the ire of the anti-Farrell portion of Red Sox Nation that remains baffled why Abad would ever be used in a tight game. Before we pile on the manager too much for this decision it should be noted that the hit by Miller was the first Abad has allowed to a left-handed hitter since August 10. It was also only the second inherited run allowed by a Red Sox reliever this month. Farrell gets a lot of criticism for how he manages this bullpen, but for the most part he’s been pushing the right buttons lately.

Besides, the Red Sox went on to win anyway. No harm, no foul, right? If it weren’t for Abad blowing the lead then the game never would have gone to extra-innings, allowing this pitching staff to make history when Joe Kelly punched out two of the final three batters he faced to close out the game.

With Craig Kimbrel unavailable, Kelly pitched the final 2 2/3 innings without allowing a run to earn the win. Kelly has yet to give up a run since returning to the bullpen earlier this month. He has struck out 11 with only three walks in 11 1/3 innings in that span.

The Red Sox pitching staff has been outstanding down the stretch, leading the American League in ERA since the break. This team has been known mostly for its offense this year, but today was an example of how their pitching has been a big part of their 11-game winning streak that has opened a comfortable lead at the top of the AL East.

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