In a 162-game marathon it’s easy to lose sight of which teams have played well following a rough first couple months or which teams have faded since a fast start, so with about three weeks remaining in the season let’s take a look at the best records since the All-Star break.
First up, the National League:
Reds 39 19
Nationals 39 20
Phillies 34 21
Braves 35 23
Padres 34 22
Giants 34 22
Cincinnati, Washington, Atlanta, and San Francisco are likely all headed for the playoffs with the four best overall records in the league, but Philadelphia and San Diego have turned things around in a huge way after stumbling out of the gates. It’s too little too late for the Padres, but the Phillies have somehow climbed back to .500 and into legitimate Wild Card contention after going 37-50 in the first half.
And now the American League:
Athletics 38 17
Orioles 34 22
Mariners 32 23
Rangers 32 23
Rays 32 23
What’s going on in Oakland right now is pretty crazy and last night was no exception. Seattle is obviously the biggest surprise in the AL, going 32-23 in the second half after going 36-51 in the first half. Like with the Padres it’s too little too late for the Mariners, but they’ve at least provided some reason for optimism following some pretty ugly seasons.
Blue Jays’ outfielder Anthony Alford will miss at least 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on his left wrist, the team announced on Saturday. Alford was placed on the 10-day disabled list earlier in the week after sustaining a left hamate fracture on a foul pitch, and could miss significant time in what looks to be a lengthy rehab process. MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the procedure has been scheduled for next week and will be performed by Dr. Donald Sheridan in Arizona.
Alford, 22, was called up to the majors from Double-A New Hampshire last Friday. He went hitless in his first three outings, finally catching a break against the Brewers on Tuesday when he pinch-hit a leadoff double in the seventh. The injury occurred two innings later when Alford fouled off a pitch in the ninth inning, fracturing his wrist in the process.
Alford will join eight other players on the Blue Jays’ disabled list, including outfielders Steve Pearce (calf strain), Dalton Pompey (concussion) and Darrell Cecillani (partial shoulder dislocation). He’s expected to be replaced by 24-year-old outfield prospect Dwight Smith Jr.
Good luck getting a hit against the Nationals this weekend. Stephen Strasburg followed Max Scherzer‘s 13-strikeout performance on Friday with a dazzling outing of his own on Saturday afternoon. The right-hander whiffed a career-best 15 batters in seven innings, allowing just three hits and a walk in the Nats’ 3-0 win.
It took Strasburg several innings to get into a groove after pitching into (and out of) a jam in the first inning. The Padres loaded the bases with Allen Cordoba‘s leadoff single, a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman and a four-pitch walk to Cory Spangenberg. By the third, Strasburg was cruising, striking out the side on 18 pitches and keeping the Padres off the basepaths until the sixth. He recorded his 15th and final strikeout in the seventh inning, catching Padres’ prospect Franchy Cordero swinging on a 1-2 pitch to effectively end his outing.
While 15 strikeouts set a new career record for the Nationals’ ace, he came close to reaching the mark twice before. The first time, he struck out 14 of 24 batters during his major league debut against the 2010 Pirates, though the 5-2 win did little more than keep the Nationals neck-and-neck with the Marlins at the bottom of the NL East. Five years later, he tied his 14-strikeout record against the 2015 Phillies, tossing a one-hitter in eight innings to cement his ninth victory of the season.
The only one who doesn’t seem overly enthused by the new record? Strasburg himself, who told MLB.com’s Jamal Collier and AJ Cassavell: “It’s pretty cool, but there’s another game five, six days from now. I’ll enjoy it tonight, but back to work tomorrow.”