$3 million down the drain for Astros

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Apparently satisfied with finishing in fifth place, the Astros have opted to pick up Brian Moehler’s $3 million option rather than exercise a $250,000 buyout.
It was actually a mutual option — the kind that never seems to get exercised — but Moehler was quick to jump all over the kindhearted gesture. Certainly, no one else was going to be quick to pay him $3 million after a season in which he went 8-12 with a 5.47 ERA and averaged only 5 1/3 innings per start.
Because he averaged so few innings per start, he missed qualifying for the ERA title and finishing with what would have been the NL’s worst ERA over Livan Hernandez.
Moehler had more runs allowed than strikeouts this season. He had more than twice as many hits allowed as strikeouts. He even got worse as the year went on, finishing 1-6 with a 6.12 ERA during August and September. In those two months, he allowed 73 hits, walked 21 and struck out 28 in 57 1/3 innings.
There’s just so little upside here. Moehler turns 38 this winter. He hasn’t had an ERA under 4.50 as a starter since 1998. He hasn’t qualified for the ERA title since 2000. He’s spent his entire career pitching for clubs that were average or worse, largely because he’s always been average or worse.
But this is Ed Wade for you. There’s a modest chance Moehler will be worth the $3 million he makes next year, but it’s extremely unlikely that he’ll be worth more and quite possible that he’ll find himself off the roster by June 1. When the Astros spend next year whining about how they can’t afford to take on more payroll, remember this completely unnecessary move. There’s little doubt the Astros could have had Moehler back for $1 million had they just exercised a little patience.

Bud Norris exits outing with right knee soreness

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Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.

While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.

 

When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.

Video: Max Scherzer sets record with 13-strikeout outing

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Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.

More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.

Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)

It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.