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Clayton Kershaw reaches career milestone with 2,000 strikeouts

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For those who have gotten distracted by Chris Sale‘s remarkable strikeout streak or the one-two punch of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, Clayton Kershaw is here to reclaim the spotlight. The Dodgers’ ace set down 14 strikeouts against the Brewers on Friday night, the fourth of which marked the 2,000th whiff of his 10-year career.

That’s spectacular for any pitcher, let alone one who is nine months shy of 30 years old. It’s fast, too — so fast, in fact, that Elias Sports Bureau lists only two major league hurlers who have recorded 2,000 strikeouts faster than Kershaw: Randy Johnson (1,734 innings) and Pedro Martinez (1,715 1/3 innings). By comparison, Kershaw did it in 1,836 innings.

Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts praised Kershaw’s precision and focus en route to the 2,000-strikeout record, while hinting that No. 3,000 might come even faster. Via MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick:

Not only does he care about the big picture, but he stays so micro-focused on today. When it’s all said and done, I’m sure 2,000 will be a lot closer to 3,000. He’s a great pitcher and for me to be a part of his journey is great.

Hitting that 3,000-mark might still be far off, but he’ll need just 214 more strikeouts to tie Sandy Koufax for third-most in franchise history and 696 to eclipse franchise strikeout leader Don Sutton.

If the southpaw hasn’t looked like his usual self lately, that’s partly because the bar is set so high. He’s coming down from a season in which he posted a 1.69 ERA, the lowest of his career, paired with an 0.7 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 over 149 innings. Through the first two months of the 2017 season, his 1.9 fWAR is the sixth-best among major league starters, while his 2.37 ERA (entering Friday’s game) ranks fourth alongside the White Sox’ Derek Holland.

Rob Manfred says Tampa Bay must pick up pace on new stadium

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wants Tampa Bay to work a little quicker on getting the Rays a new ballpark.

Rays Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg has been working for nearly a decade to get a new stadium for the club and signed a three-year agreement with the City of St. Petersburg early in 2016 to search for a site in the Tampa Bay area. Manfred wants that search to pick up some steam.

“I think it’s fair to say we want the process to take on a better pace moving forward,” Manfred said Wednesday night at Tropicana Field, home of the Rays since their first season in 1998.

The Rays were averaging 15,815 fans per game before Wednesday night’s contest against the Toronto Blue Jays. That is just over half the major league average of 30,470. Tropicana Field and its location have been almost universally blamed as the reason for the poor attendance.

“I’ve been pretty clear that they need a new facility here, a major league quality facility in an A-plus location,” Manfred said. “It is time to move that decision to the front burner here in Tampa.”

The matter of how a stadium would be financed has been tabled until a site is determined, but Sternberg continued to express confidence in the Tampa Bay market.

“I’ve had the opportunity to bail on it many times over the years,” he said. “I won’t say this is a slam dunk, it’s certainly not. But I think we can do something that’ll at least double our attendance. That’s a lot to ask for.”

Manfred said Major League Baseball “doesn’t have a firm timetable” for what steps to take if the Rays fail to get an agreement to build a new stadium in the Tampa Bay area, but but added that “it is a topic of discussion in the industry, the lack of progress.”

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Robinson Cano leaves game with hamstring tightness

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Bad news for the Mariners this evening: Robinson Cano left Seattle’s game against the Atlanta Braves with tightness in his left hamstring.

Cano walked off the field after legging out a double — his second of the game — in the third inning. He pulled up as he approached second base and walked off the field, accompanied by a trainer. There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury. The Mariners have a day off Thursday before opening a series at the Yankees on Friday night, so they have some time to evaluate him.

Cano is hitting .277/.377/.460 with 19 homers and 78 RBI on the year.