It’s no secret that Tampa Bay believes in young (and cheap) starting pitching, but Bill Chastain of MLB.com notes just how strong that belief is: Tonight the Rays will set an MLB record by starting a pitcher under 30 years old for the 704th consecutive game.
That streak dates back to May 24 of 2007, when crazily enough Jae Seo started on his 30th birthday. Before that the last over-29 pitcher to start for the Rays was a then-32-year-old Mark Hendrickson way back on June 25 of 2006.
Also of note: During the 703-game streak the Rays have used a total of only 14 different starting pitchers, which is the lowest number in MLB, and none of the 14 (led by tonight’s pitcher, James Shields, with a team-high 142 starts) were signed as free agents.
During the streak of exclusively using twenty-something starters the Rays are 377-326 for a .536 winning percentage that equates to an 87-75 record per 162 games. Shields, incidentally, turns 30 in December.
Nationals starter Max Scherzer bunted a ball into his face during batting practice on Tuesday, breaking his nose in the process. He ended up with a gnarly looking shiner around his right eye, making him appear a bit like Terminator. Scherzer still took the ball to start the second game of Wednesday night’s doubleheader against the Phillies.
Despite the injury, Scherzer was incredibly effective, limiting the Phillies to four hits and two walks across seven shutout innings, striking out 10 batters in the process. He might even have had some extra adrenaline going, as he averaged 96.2 MPH on his fastball, his highest average fastball velocity in a game since September 2012, per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier. The Nationals provided Scherzer with just one run of support, coming on a Brian Dozier solo home run off of Jake Arrieta in the second inning, but it was enough.
Wander Suero worked a scoreless top of the eighth with a pair of strikeouts. Victor Robles added a solo homer off of Pat Neshek in the bottom half. Closer Sean Doolittle took over in the ninth, working a 1-2-3 frame to give the Nats their 2-0 victory.
Over his last six starts, Scherzer now has a 0.88 ERA with a 59/8 K/BB ratio across 41 innings. He has gone six innings, struck out at least nine batters, and held the opposition to two or fewer runs in each of those six starts.