Sunday Will Never be the Same-and for Strikeout Pitchers, Neither will any Other Day

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Monday, May 7.

While 2017 seemed like a special year for strikeouts, 2018 looks like leaving 2017 in the shade and we’re only a month in.  One game last week that got past me was the Mariners’ James Paxton striking out 16 batters.  Friday night Gerrit Cole did the same.  Last Sunday, an 8-year minor leaguer named Nick Kingham retired the first 20 men he saw in his first MLB game.  Then yesterday, Max Scherzer struck out 15 men among the 19 outs he got.  Yes, 15 strikeouts with one out in the 7th.

If the Nationals had done any hitting against the Phillies, Scherzer might have been allowed a shot at 20, or even 21 strikeouts. Scherzer is the most recent man to strike out 20, which he pulled off against his old teammates, the Tigers.  Yesterday was the day in 1998 when the Cubs’ Kerry Wood struck out 20. But all the Nats got was a single run off Phillies’ starter Jake Arrieta. In the 7th inning,  the Phillies’ first hitter Pedro Florimon singled.   Scherzer was gone after collecting one more strikeout during which Florimon stole second. Scherzer had to wonder why the term “pitch count” had to apply to him when his relievers gave up 3 runs in the 7th and one more an inning later. Scherzer must have imagined himself  joining Steve Carlton who struck out 19 Mets-and lost in 1969 decades before anybody started counting pitches.

Mad Max’s  batters came to his rescue in the last two innings, giving him a “no decision,” the best he could hope for by now.  Anthony Rendon singled home two runs in the home 8th to cut the Phillies’ lead to 4–3. The Phillies’ closer Hector Neris caused most of his own problems in the 9th. The Nats’ Matt Wieters earned his way to first base with a single. Neris then air-mailed a pickoff throw, hit Howie Kendrick with a pitched ball and walked Michael A. Taylor to load the bases

Pulling out a closer, no matter how rattled he may be isn’t the usual move.  Managers fear doing long-term damage to their closer by taking the ball from him. So, rookie Phillies manager Gabe Kapler left the game with Neris, who walked Pedro Severino with the bases full to tie the game. From there, Wilmer DiFoe singled home the game winner.

Meanwhile a couple of hundred miles to the north, the Yankees’ Domingo German continued his exceptional start to his MLB career.  This past Tuesday, when scheduled starter Jordan Montgomery could only go an inning before an elbow injury sent him to the DL, German pitched 4 innings against the defending world champion Astros and kept the game scoreless.  The Yankees would win that one in the 9th and hadn’t lost since, as German took the hill at Yankee Stadium for the first time. He was facing the Indians’ Mike Clevinger, a man with a few more years under his belt pitching for a team less burdened by injuries to their starting pitchers.  The two matched each other inning by inning with one exception.  German, the rookie who was in AA a year ago wasn’t giving up any hits.  After 6 innings the high-powered Indians’ offense had no hits.  However, with Montgomery already on the DL the Yankees weren’t taking a risk with his replacement.  German had also thrown 84 pitches, and in a no-hitter you would like a pitcher to throw fewer than that.  Dellin Betances replaced German in the 7th.  The Indians put up 4 in the 8th, taking a 4-0 lead.  Visiting Pitcher Clevinger had thrown 100 pitches but with a 4-run lead,  Tribe manager Terry Francona gave him a chance.  That ended after he walked Neil Walker and Tyler Austin with one out in the 8th. Here was the one significant injury the Indians had.  Former Yankee Andrew Miller, their terrific setup man is down with a hamstring strain.  Francona rolled the dice, hoping his closer Cody Allen could get a save while retiring 5 men. Brett Gardner drove home Walker, after which Aaron Judge doubled home Austin and Gardner.  Not only did this cut the lead to 4–3, but the Yankees were forcing their old teammate to throw more pitches than he or his manager would prefer. In the 9th, Walker doubled home Aaron Hicks who had also doubled. With the score tied, his closer’s pitch count was up to 32 pitches which was as far as Francona would push him.  Dan Otero came in, walked Giancarlo Stanton on purpose, then faced Gleyber Torres who had hit his first major league home run on Friday night. After 5 pitches, Torres hit the sixth into the Yankee bull pen for a walk-off win on a 3-run home run.  Having won 15 of their last 16, the Yankees now prepare for a series against the Red Sox who were 17–2 until they ran into Oakland’s Sean Manaea who threw a no-hitter against them on April 21.

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