Daily Dose: Nolasco goes out with a bang

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Ricky Nolasco put on a show Wednesday, setting a Marlins record with 16 strikeouts and nearly made history with nine punchouts in a row. Tom Seaver holds the all-time record with 10 straight strikeouts, but Adam LaRoche snapped Nolasco’s streak with a double. Jake Peavy in 2007 and Mickey Welch in 1884 are the only other pitchers in baseball history to get nine straight strikeouts. And yes, that says 1884.
Nolasco followed up his breakout 2008 by getting off to a brutal start this year, going 2-5 with a 9.07 ERA in nine outings to earn a demotion to Triple-A. Since returning in early June he’s been fantastic, going 11-4 with a 3.82 ERA and 158/31 K/BB ratio in 141.1 innings. Not only are his 16 strikeouts Wednesday the most of any pitcher this year, Nolasco now has 381 strikeouts in 397 innings since the beginning of 2008.
While his 5.09 ERA makes it likely that Nolasco will be tremendously undervalued for 2010, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Boston trotted out the junior-varsity lineup Wednesday after clinching the Wild Card and Roy Halladay predictably tossed a complete-game, three-hit shutout. He finished nine of 32 starts this year to lead baseball, going 17-10 with a 2.79 ERA and AL-high 239 innings. If the Blue Jays shop him again this winter and decide on a reasonable asking price this time Halladay will have at least ended his Toronto career fittingly.
* Justin Masterson suffered his sixth straight loss Wednesday as Mark Buehrle and a couple relievers combined to shut out the Indians, but finished his disappointing year by allowing one run and racking up a career-high 12 strikeouts in a complete game. He may still eventually end up in the bullpen, but Masterson has a 4.32 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 144 innings spread over 25 career starts.
* Earlier this week John Russell confused a lot of people by yanking Zach Duke from a blowout when he was one out short of a complete game. Duke had thrown just 103 pitches, which is why it was amusing to see the Pirates’ skipper leave Charlie Morton in for a 119-pitch complete game Wednesday. Morton blanked the Cubs after giving up 10 runs in his previous start against them, finishing with a 4.55 ERA in 18 starts.
* Not that he would’ve had much of a role anyway, but Jamie Moyer is officially out of the Phillies’ playoffs plans after being diagnosed with three torn muscles in his groin and abdomen. Moyer suffered the injury while pitching in relief Tuesday and finishes the year at 12-10 with a 4.94 ERA in 162 innings. He turns 47 years old next month, but the Phillies are on the hook to Moyer for $8 million in 2010.
AL Quick Hits: Carl Pavano had been 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA against Detroit this year, but the Tigers roughed him up Wednesday while all but clinching the division … Joba Chamberlain needed 91 pitches to record 11 outs Wednesday, failing to make it out of the fourth inning to finish 9-6 with a 4.78 ERA … Cleveland fired Eric Wedge and his entire coaching staff Wednesday after seven seasons on the job … John Buck hit his fourth triple of the year Wednesday after managing a grand total of three through his first 525 games … Tim Wakefield allowed five runs in three innings Wednesday, making him a question mark for the playoffs … Randy Ruiz continued his impressive audition for 2010 by going 4-for-6 with two bombs Wednesday … Carl Crawford said Wednesday that he hopes to work out a long-term deal with the Rays … A day after hitting three homers, Adam Lind was out of Wednesday’s lineup due to a Jonathan Papelbon pitch to the elbow … Josh Beckett (back) threw a 62-pitch bullpen session Wednesday in preparation for Saturday’s start.
NL Quick Hits: Raul Ibanez smacked his seventh homer of the month Wednesday as the Phillies clinched their third straight division title … Jose Reyes tore his hamstring while running the bases earlier this week and may need surgery … Bronson Arroyo tossed 8.1 innings of one-run ball Wednesday, finishing the season with 13 straight Quality Starts … Hiroki Kuroda has been scratched from Saturday’s start with a sore neck, so Clayton Kershaw will take his place … John Smoltz allowed six runs and a season-high five walks in four innings Wednesday, putting his playoff rotation spot in doubt … Freddy Sanchez underwent season-ending knee surgery Wednesday and aims to be ready for spring training whether or not the Giants pick up his $8.1 million option … Corey Hart may be done for the season after X-rays revealed two fractured fingers … Pedro Martinez rejoined the rotation Wednesday by giving up three runs in four innings, including a pair of J.R. Towles blasts … Justin Maxwell’s walk-off grand slam Wednesday handed Francisco Rodriguez his seventh blown save.

Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

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TORONTO — Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run drive for the New York Yankees in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field fence at Rogers Centre. The 117.4 mph drive took just 3.8 seconds to land 394 feet from the plate, and it put the Yankees ahead 5-3.

Judge watched the ball clank off the front of the stands, just below two fans who reached over a railing and tried for a catch. He pumped an arm just before reaching first and exchanged a slap with coach Travis Chapman.

The ball dropped into Toronto’s bullpen and was picked up by Blue Jays bullpen coach Matt Buschmann, who turned it over to the Yankees.

Judge’s mother and Roger Maris Jr. rose and hugged from front-row seats. He appeared to point toward them after rounding second base, then was congratulated by the entire Yankees team, who gave him hugs after he crossed the plate.

Judge moved past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league mark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars reached those huge numbers playing for the Yankees.

Barry Bonds holds the big league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.

Judge had gone seven games without a home run – his longest drought this season was nine in mid-August. This was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, leaving them seven more in the regular season.

The home run came in the fourth plate appearance of the night for Judge, ending a streak of 34 plate appearances without a home run.

Judge is hitting .313 with 130 RBIs, also the top totals in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.

Maris hit No. 61 for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1961, against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.

Maris’ mark has been exceeded six times, but all have been tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds topped him. Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris the holder of the “clean” record.

Among the tallest batters in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge burst on the scene on Aug. 13, 2016, homering off the railing above Yankee Stadium’s center-field sports bar and into the netting above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin to the plate and they become the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bats in the same game.

Judge hit 52 homers with 114 RBIs the following year and was a unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him during the following three seasons, and he rebounded to hit 39 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021.

As he approached his last season before free agent eligibility, Judge on opening day turned down the Yankees’ offer of an eight-year contract worth from $230.5 million to $234.5 million. The proposal included an average of $30.5 million annually from 2023-29, with his salary this year to be either the $17 million offered by the team in arbitration or the $21 million requested by the player.

An agreement was reached in June on a $19 million, one-year deal, and Judge heads into this offseason likely to get a contract from the Yankees or another team for $300 million or more, perhaps topping $400 million.

Judge hit six homers in April, 12 in May and 11 in June. He earned his fourth All-Star selection and entered the break with 33 homers. He had 13 homers in July and dropped to nine in August, when injuries left him less protected in the batting order and pitchers walked him 25 times.

He became just the fifth player to hold a share of the AL season record. Nap Lajoie hit 14 in the AL’s first season as a major league in 1901, and Philadelphia Athletics teammate Socks Seabold had 16 the next year, a mark that stood until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919. Ruth set the record four times in all, with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921 and 60 in 1927, a mark that stood until Maris’ 61 in 1961.

Maris was at 35 in July 1961 during the first season each team’s schedule increased from 154 games to 162, and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled if anyone topped Ruth in more than 154 games “there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under a 154-game schedule.”

That “distinctive mark” became known as an “asterisk” and it remained until Sept. 4, 1991, when a committee on statistical accuracy chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.