The Red Sox were supposed to have three MVP candidates, but it’s down to one now: Jacoby Ellsbury went 4-for-5 with his third homer in six games and four runs scored in Tuesday night’s takedown of the Blue Jays, raising his average to .321.
The 28-year-old Ellsbury is up to fifth in the AL in average, ninth with a .380 OBP and sixth with a .546 slugging percentage. He’s second with 108 runs scored, ninth with 27 homers, ninth with 94 RBI and fourth with 36 steals. He’s now tied with Gonzalez for the AL lead with 321 total bases.
Ellsbury is seven steals behind the Yankees’ Brett Gardner, so it doesn’t look like he’ll become the first player since Ty Cobb with the 1911 Tigers to lead his league in both total bases and steals. However, he’s on pace to become the 18th player in major league history with at least 350 total bases and 30 steals and possibly the 10th to have that many total bases and 40 steals. The last two with 350 total bases and 30 steals were Jimmy Rollins and Hanley Ramirez in 2007. Alfonso Soriano actually did it three times: 2002, 2003 and 2006.
Ellsbury has been particularly amazing since the beginning of July, hitting .346/.403/.651 with 18 homers, 54 RBI and 53 runs scored in 63 games. That’s be 47 homers, 139 RBI and 137 runs on a 162-game pace.
I don’t know if that makes him the AL MVP, but I think he’s joined Jose Bautista and Justin Verlander to form a trio that’s a clear notch above the rest of the pack.
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.
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.