Ricky Nolasco hurls second shutout in three starts

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For the second time in two weeks, Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco has pitched a shutout against the Nationals. He hurled a four-hitter Sunday in Miami’s 8-0 victory.

Nolasco also shut out the Nationals on Aug. 28. He had just two shutouts in 173 career starts before doubling that total in his last three outings.

It’s likely that Nolasco could have been had by anyone wanting to take his salary last month. Prior to the Aug. 28 shutout, he was in the midst of another frustrating year, having gone 9-12 with a 5.07 ERA. Given that he’s due $11.5 million next year in the final season of his contract, the Marlins likely would have been happy to move him. It didn’t happen then, but it might this winter, especially if a continued strong finish helps facilitate such a move.

Still, it’s not hard to see why there wasn’t any interest last month. Nolasco used to look like an underachiever with his excellent strikeout rate and middling to poor ERAs. With his velocity and strikeout rate both down the last two years, now he just looks below average. At least, when he’s not facing the Nationals.

Justin Verlander named ALCS MVP

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Following the Astros’ decisive 4-0 shutout over the Yankees on Saturday night, Justin Verlander was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series. Hall of Fame outfielder and former MLB manager Frank Robinson handed the award to Verlander, who was beaming as he thanked his teammates and members of the Astros’ organization.

“I’ve got to say, it came down to the wire, and one thing kept going off in my head was Dallas,” Verlander told the crowd gathered at Minute Maid Park. “When he called me, he said that I won’t regret my decision to join the Houston Astros. And here we are right now, it’s the best feeling in the world. We’ve got four more wins to win a World Series, and I do not regret my decision to come here. This is the best feeling a player can have. So, thank you.”

Among a cast that boasted the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel, among others, Verlander was spectacular. He locked down a complete game win in Game 2, holding the Yankees to one run on five hits and a walk and striking out a postseason-high 13 batters. In Game 6, he saved the Astros from elimination with seven scoreless innings, helping propel the club to their eventual 7-1 finish that set up their series-clinching finale on Saturday.

The 34-year-old righty also took his place among some postseason greats. Thanks to an eight-strikeout outing on Friday night, his collective 136 postseason strikeouts are good for sixth-most in MLB playoff history, just a smidgen shy of Tom Glavine (143), Mike Mussina (145), Roger Clemens (173), Andy Pettitte (183) and John Smoltz (199). He also joined Bob Gibson, Curt Schilling and Sandy Koufax as one of just four hurlers to strike out 20+ Yankees in a postseason series.