After striking out two over a scoreless inning in yesterday’s win over the Cubs, Aroldis Chapman has now worked nine scoreless innings in six relief appearances this season. Given that the Reds considered using him as a starter during spring training, this is a pretty appropriate time to look at his overall numbers. And yes, they are nothing short of fantastic.
Chapman has allowed just three hits (two singles and a triple) and no walks. It’s a stunning turnaround for someone who averaged 7.4 BB/9 last year and didn’t go more than five consecutive appearances without issuing a walk. Equally impressive, he has fanned 17 of the 30 batters he has faced this year, which means he has a strikeout percentage of 56.7 percent. Granted, we’re talking about a small sample size here, but Dodgers’ reliever Kenley Jansen led the majors with a 44 percent strikeout percentage last year.
Chapman has averaged 96.5 mph on his fastball, down a couple ticks from what we’ve seen in the past, but sacrificing a little heat has clearly done wonders for his command. And with a swinging strike rate of 21.5 percent, his fastball and hard-biting slider are still plenty good enough to put batters away.
As for Chapman finally getting his chance as a starter, well, nothing appears imminent. Mike Leake and Homer Bailey are the most vulnerable to get the boot, but they’ll likely get a handful of starts before any changes are made, especially with set-up man Nick Masset still on the disabled list with a right shoulder injury. Bailey, who is out of options, allowed four runs (one earned) over seven innings yesterday and has a 3.86 ERA over his first three starts. Leake, who will start today against the Cubs, has allowed eight runs in 12 1/3 innings (5.84 ERA) over his first two starts.
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.