Max Scherzer takes over major league lead in strikeouts

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It’ll be a short-lived lead, but Max Scherzer fanned 10 Twins over seven shutout innings Wednesday to move past teammate Justin Verlander for the major league lead with 178 strikeouts. He’s gotten there in just 140 2/3 innings, while Verlander has racked up his 174 strikeouts in 175 2/3 innings.

If Scherzer maintains his current pace, he’d finish with the season with the highest strikeout rate for a starting pitcher since Randy Johnson in 2002.

Here’s the top 10 in strikeouts per nine innings since 2000. I’m using a minimum of 162 innings:

13.41 – Randy Johnson (2001 Diamondbacks)
12.56 – Randy Johnson (2000 Diamondbacks)
11.78 – Pedro Martinez (2000 Red Sox)
11.56 – Randy Johnson (2002 Diamondbacks)
11.35 – Kerry Wood (2003 Cubs)
11.20 – Kerry Wood (2001 Cubs)
10.97 – Oliver Perez (2004 Pirates)
10.97 – Curt Schilling (2002 Diamondbacks)
10.93 – Erik Bedard (2007 Orioles)
10.79 – Pedro Martinez (2002 Red S0x)

Scherzer is currently at 11.39 K/9 IP with 22 more innings needed to qualify for the list. Of course, I should also note that the mark is barely the best in the majors this year: Stephen Strasburg entered his start Wednesday with 166 strikeouts in 133 1/3 innings, good for 11.21 K/9 IP. Yu Darvish is also at 10.36 this year, with 162 strikeouts in 140 2/3 innings.

Yankees defeat Blue Jays to clinch postseason spot

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The Yankees guaranteed their place in the postseason with a 5-1 win over the Blue Jays on Saturday. Sonny Gray led the charge against their division rivals, clinching his 10th win of the season with six innings of four-hit, one-run, four-strikeout ball.

Gray worked into a little trouble in the first inning, putting runners in scoring position after Josh Donaldson drew a four-pitch walk and Justin Smoak advanced him with a single. The Yankees’ ace induced two quick outs to end the threat, but was overpowered by a Teoscar Hernandez home run in the third inning, the rookie’s fourth blast of the season:

Thankfully for the Yankees, that was the only run that slipped through the cracks. Gray finished the remainder of his outing with two hits and two walks and was backed by another three scoreless innings from the bullpen. Greg Bird supplied the go-ahead run with a three-RBI shot in the fifth inning, plating Chase Headley and Starlin Castro to give the Yankees their first lead of the night.

Todd Frazier tacked on another solo homer in the eighth, while Starlin Castro returned in the ninth to cap the win with an RBI single. Aroldis Chapman did the rest, wielding just 10 pitches to get three straight outs from Kendrys Morales, Kevin Pillar and Rob Refsnyder.

Following Saturday’s win, the Yankees have at least secured one wild card berth, though they’re not out of the division race just yet. They still sit a full four games back of first place in the AL East, with eight games left to play.

Watch: Brian Dozier pulls off a bunt home run

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Brian Dozier had a bonafide Little League moment during Saturday’s contest against the Tigers. In the first inning, the Twins’ second baseman squared up a bunt against Detroit left-hander Matt Boyd, which was scooped by Jeimer Candelario halfway up the third base line. The throw to first skirted the bag, allowing Dozier to touch all the bases and slide home to score the Twins’ first run of the game.

In other words, it was just your run-of-the-mill bunt home run:

Officially, the play was scored as a single and run scored on a throwing error. Still, if this is a sampling of the kind of plays we can expect to see from the Twins this October, it’s shaping up to be one wacky postseason.