Joe Maddon improves to .500 as Rays manager

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The Rays defeated the Orioles 4-1 on Friday night and remain 1 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the American League East and seven games up on the Red Sox in the American League Wild Card. While the playoffs look like a virtual-lock, there was some extra significance to Friday’s win. As Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times points out, Joe Maddon improved to 391-391 (.500) as manager of the Rays.

“Five hundred — that’s like the old days when 70 wins was considered
high. C’mon, give me a break,” Maddon said. “Who want to be .500?”

Maddon was speaking in jest, but consider for a minute that the Rays were 127-197 (.391) over his first two seasons. This includes a 101-loss season in 2006. Since the start of the 2008 season, the Rays are 264-194 (.576) under his watch.

“We’ve
just grown as an organization, talent-wise, depth-wise. It really
speaks to the job the front office has done and the scouting and
development departments. That’s really where this transition’s come
from. I happen to be the manager.”

If the Rays defeat the Orioles tonight, Maddon will have his first winning record as Rays manager since the team was 7-6 over the first 13 games of the 2006 season. It might not happen tonight, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say he’ll get there eventually.

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.