Daily Dose: Nolasco goes out with a bang

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Ricky Nolasco put on a show Wednesday, setting a Marlins record with 16 strikeouts and nearly made history with nine punchouts in a row. Tom Seaver holds the all-time record with 10 straight strikeouts, but Adam LaRoche snapped Nolasco’s streak with a double. Jake Peavy in 2007 and Mickey Welch in 1884 are the only other pitchers in baseball history to get nine straight strikeouts. And yes, that says 1884.
Nolasco followed up his breakout 2008 by getting off to a brutal start this year, going 2-5 with a 9.07 ERA in nine outings to earn a demotion to Triple-A. Since returning in early June he’s been fantastic, going 11-4 with a 3.82 ERA and 158/31 K/BB ratio in 141.1 innings. Not only are his 16 strikeouts Wednesday the most of any pitcher this year, Nolasco now has 381 strikeouts in 397 innings since the beginning of 2008.
While his 5.09 ERA makes it likely that Nolasco will be tremendously undervalued for 2010, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Boston trotted out the junior-varsity lineup Wednesday after clinching the Wild Card and Roy Halladay predictably tossed a complete-game, three-hit shutout. He finished nine of 32 starts this year to lead baseball, going 17-10 with a 2.79 ERA and AL-high 239 innings. If the Blue Jays shop him again this winter and decide on a reasonable asking price this time Halladay will have at least ended his Toronto career fittingly.
* Justin Masterson suffered his sixth straight loss Wednesday as Mark Buehrle and a couple relievers combined to shut out the Indians, but finished his disappointing year by allowing one run and racking up a career-high 12 strikeouts in a complete game. He may still eventually end up in the bullpen, but Masterson has a 4.32 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 144 innings spread over 25 career starts.
* Earlier this week John Russell confused a lot of people by yanking Zach Duke from a blowout when he was one out short of a complete game. Duke had thrown just 103 pitches, which is why it was amusing to see the Pirates’ skipper leave Charlie Morton in for a 119-pitch complete game Wednesday. Morton blanked the Cubs after giving up 10 runs in his previous start against them, finishing with a 4.55 ERA in 18 starts.
* Not that he would’ve had much of a role anyway, but Jamie Moyer is officially out of the Phillies’ playoffs plans after being diagnosed with three torn muscles in his groin and abdomen. Moyer suffered the injury while pitching in relief Tuesday and finishes the year at 12-10 with a 4.94 ERA in 162 innings. He turns 47 years old next month, but the Phillies are on the hook to Moyer for $8 million in 2010.
AL Quick Hits: Carl Pavano had been 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA against Detroit this year, but the Tigers roughed him up Wednesday while all but clinching the division … Joba Chamberlain needed 91 pitches to record 11 outs Wednesday, failing to make it out of the fourth inning to finish 9-6 with a 4.78 ERA … Cleveland fired Eric Wedge and his entire coaching staff Wednesday after seven seasons on the job … John Buck hit his fourth triple of the year Wednesday after managing a grand total of three through his first 525 games … Tim Wakefield allowed five runs in three innings Wednesday, making him a question mark for the playoffs … Randy Ruiz continued his impressive audition for 2010 by going 4-for-6 with two bombs Wednesday … Carl Crawford said Wednesday that he hopes to work out a long-term deal with the Rays … A day after hitting three homers, Adam Lind was out of Wednesday’s lineup due to a Jonathan Papelbon pitch to the elbow … Josh Beckett (back) threw a 62-pitch bullpen session Wednesday in preparation for Saturday’s start.
NL Quick Hits: Raul Ibanez smacked his seventh homer of the month Wednesday as the Phillies clinched their third straight division title … Jose Reyes tore his hamstring while running the bases earlier this week and may need surgery … Bronson Arroyo tossed 8.1 innings of one-run ball Wednesday, finishing the season with 13 straight Quality Starts … Hiroki Kuroda has been scratched from Saturday’s start with a sore neck, so Clayton Kershaw will take his place … John Smoltz allowed six runs and a season-high five walks in four innings Wednesday, putting his playoff rotation spot in doubt … Freddy Sanchez underwent season-ending knee surgery Wednesday and aims to be ready for spring training whether or not the Giants pick up his $8.1 million option … Corey Hart may be done for the season after X-rays revealed two fractured fingers … Pedro Martinez rejoined the rotation Wednesday by giving up three runs in four innings, including a pair of J.R. Towles blasts … Justin Maxwell’s walk-off grand slam Wednesday handed Francisco Rodriguez his seventh blown save.

Video: Adrian Beltre belts a walk-off home run on Monday against the Athletics

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 25:  The Texas Rangers celebrate the two-run walk off homerun by Adrian Beltre #29 against the Oakland Athletics at Globe Life Park in Arlington on July 25, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The Rangers found themselves in a 5-1 hole after three innings against the Athletics on Monday, but scratched out some runs in the middle innings. That allowed them to enter the bottom of the ninth inning trailing by only one run, 6-5, facing A’s closer Ryan Madson.

Adrian Beltre, who hit a solo home run in the seventh inning, stepped to the plate with a runner on first base and two outs. He was the Rangers’ last hope to keep the game alive. The veteran third baseman swung at Madson’s first pitch, a 96 MPH fastball, and drilled it to left-center field for a walk-off two-run home run.

Beltre now has nine walk-off home runs in his career. While the 37-year-old isn’t quite the offensive dynamo he was even two years ago, his numbers are still respectable. He’ll head into Tuesday’s action batting .281/.334/.468 with 16 home runs and 63 RBI in 392 plate appearances.

Jay Bruce: “This is such a fleeting game. It’s so unforgiving.”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 25:  Jay Bruce #32 of the Cincinnati Reds swings and watches the flight of his ball as he hits a two-run homer against the San Francisco Giants in the top of the fourth inning at AT&T Park on July 25, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Outfielder Jay Bruce was the catalyst in the Reds’ 7-5 victory over the Giants on Monday night, drilling a pair of two-run home runs. It’s good timing for the Reds, as the trade deadline is six days away. The Reds might prefer to get a prospect or two for Bruce rather than pick up his $13 million club option for 2017 or buy him out for $1 million and let him walk into free agency.

It was only a year ago that it seemed like the Reds would have to settle for next-to-nothing to get rid of Bruce. He posted career-lows across the board in 2014, including a .654 OPS and 18 home runs. He improved last season, returning to 26 home runs, but came with an uninspiring .729 OPS.

This year is another story. Bruce is currently hitting .272/.326/.564 with 23 home runs and a league-best 77 RBI. He’s on pace to set career-bests in a lot of categories if he’s able to stay healthy.

Bruce was honest about his resurgence, though, admitting that he doesn’t know why he’s so much better this year as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

This is such a fleeting game. It’s so unforgiving. You’re never settled. You’ve never got it. You’ve never figured it out. It’s like a puzzle that never has all the pieces to it. You might get close and feel pretty good about your progress, but you never are going to have the puzzle put together.

Bruce, who welcomed a child into the world back in April, also discussed the difficulties of hearing his name bandied about in trade rumors once again.

It’s harder this year. I have a family I have to focus on now. Logistically, it’s much more intricate. I know the skit. I know how it goes. But it will be nice when it’s passed because we’ll have a plan of attack on whether my family is staying where they are in Cincinnati or elsewhere.

This is a point of view that is not often covered. This time of the year can be very difficult for players who may be traded, as they await a phone call that could send their lives into upheaval. It may mean being away from their families for three months. It means living out of a hotel room or finding a place to live on very short notice. Even Bruce’s comments about his success this year are illuminating about the mental strain of the game.

As usual, great reporting by Buchanan. His full article is worth your time.