Fresh off a third consecutive start in the All-Star Game, Chris Sale goes back to pitching in a pennant race.
The Boston Red Sox left-hander tossed one scoreless inning and nine pitches for the American League on Tuesday night. One of his fastballs was clocked at 100.7 mph, the fastest pitch he has thrown in eight years.
"The only thing I was thinking about out there was getting outs and not messing up," he said afterward.
He rarely messes up under any circumstances. He entered the All-Star Game on a hot streak and will make his initial second-half start against the Detroit Tigers on Sunday.
Sale (10-4, 2.23 ERA) became just the third pitcher to start three consecutive All-Star Games.
"It was awesome," he told NESN. "Obviously, I know the history behind it, know that's only happened two other times. Just trying to soak it all in and appreciate it."
In Sale's last seven starts, he has been nearly unhittable. He's 5-1 with an 0.94 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 48 innings.
In 31 career outings against Detroit, Sale is 9-8 with a 3.05 ERA.
Two active Tigers have had surprising success through the years against him. Designated hitter Victor Martinez has batted .423 with four homers in 52 official at-bats and shortstop Jose Iglesias has a .344 average in 32 at-bats.
Sale was originally scheduled to face Detroit ace Michael Fulmer but was placed on the disabled list this weekend with an oblique strain. He was injured during a bullpen session on Friday.
"It's not like I went out there cold and didn't warm up properly, or this or that," Fulmer told MLB.com. "I did everything I would usually do for my normal routine. It didn't feel tight. It was just one of those things where it just happened."
The Tigers will instead counter with left-hander Blaine Hardy (3-2, 3.31 ERA).
Hardy will be making his ninth start and 19th appearance this season. His most recent start came June 26 when he gave up six runs (three earned) in four innings against Oakland.
He has made five relief appearances since then, giving up just one run in 6 2/3 innings.
"I am curious on what kind of pitch count they're going to give me," Hardy told the Detroit News. "Or more so, what pitch count can I get to."
Hardy has faced Boston three times, including one start, posting a 1-2 record and 7.04 ERA.
The Red Sox activated third baseman Rafael Devers from the disabled list on Saturday. Devers went 1-for-4 in his return but also committed his 20th error, which led to Detroit's first two runs in a 5-0 victory.
Boston is fortunate to have split the first two games of the three-game set despite scoring just one run. The Red Sox were blanked for the fourth time on Saturday when they stranded 10 baserunners in a 5-0 loss.
Utility man Brock Holt was unavailable Saturday after suffering a right knee contusion on Friday. He won't play Sunday but shouldn't be out long.
"He's doing OK. Just a little bit sore," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said during his pregame press conference. "Trying to stay away from him today and tomorrow. Hopefully, he can start on Monday."