James Shields

Behind James Shields, Rays set AL record for strikeouts

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Rays right-hander James Shields reached 200 strikeouts for the second straight season Friday in a 12-1 win over the Blue Jays. Along the way, he recorded the team’s 1,267 strikeout, breaking the American League record set by the 2001 Yankees.

J.P. Arencibia was the victim. It was Shields’ third strikeout of the night on his way to finishing the game with nine.

The Rays ended the game with 1,275 strikeouts, leaving them 129 shy of the major league record of 1,404 strikeouts set by the 2003 Cubs. That’s out of reach with just 11 games to go. Still, 1,350 or strikeouts for an AL team could well be considered more impressive that 1,404 from an NL team that got to face pitchers most of the year.

Shields in the Rays’ leader at 202 strikeouts for the season, with David Price not too far behind at 188. Rookie Matt Moore has 169 strikeouts in 169 1/3 innings. The bullpen also deserves plenty of credit. Wade Davis has 80 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings, Joel Peralta has 77 in 61 1/3 innings and Jake McGee has 66 in 50 1/3 innings. Fernando Rodney’s 68 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings seem almost modest in comparison.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
Jason O. Watson/Getty Images
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.