There are lots of big-name starters pitching tonight–Felix Hernandez, Adam Wainwright, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, Madison Bumgarner, CC Sabathia–but to me the most interesting matchup of the day involves a pair of back-of-the-rotation starters in the Minnesota-Philadelphia game.
Nick Blackburn of the Twins and Kyle Kendrick of the Phillies have two of the four lowest career strikeout rates among all active pitchers with at least 100 starts. Here’s the bottom five:
Aaron Cook 3.82
Chien-Ming Wang 4.11
KYLE KENDRICK 4.27
NICK BLACKBURN 4.34
John Lannan 4.71
Aaron Cook and John Lannan are currently both in the minors, so among active pitchers actually in the majors only Chien-Ming Wang has produced fewer strikeouts per nine innings than Kendrick and Blackburn. And coincidentally Wang also pitches tonight, against the Blue Jays.
For their careers Blackburn and Kendrick have averaged 4.27 and 4.34 strikeouts per nine innings. To put that in some context even if you add their strikeout rates together that’s 8.61 per nine innings, which is lower than the individual strikeout rates of 13 active pitchers with 100-plus starts, including one guy (Max Scherzer) also pitching tonight.
For anyone allergic to bat-missing Kendrick vs. Blackburn is must-see television, although having said all this I’m sure the Phillies and Twins will combine for like 50 strikeouts tonight.
Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw is nearing his return to the mound, according to club manager Dave Roberts. Both Kershaw (left biceps tendinitis) and fellow lefty Rich Hill (left middle finger blister) are scheduled to toss simulated games on Saturday; depending on the outcome, Roberts says Kershaw could forgo a minor league assignment and slot back into the rotation by Thursday.
Kershaw, 30, was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis as the team closed out their Mexico Series at the start of the month. He has not made a start in several weeks, but was finally able to resume throwing on Sunday and managed to get through two successful bullpen sessions. Though Dodgers’ ace hasn’t been completely injury-free over his 11-year career in the majors, this is the first significant issue he’s had with his pitching arm so far. The team is expected to take every precaution with the lefty, and will likely limit him to just four innings during Saturday’s simulated game.
Prior to his injury, Kershaw was working on another dominant run with the club, sporting a 2.86 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 9.8 SO/9 through his first 44 innings of the season. While Kershaw, Hill and left-handed starter Hyun-Jin Ryu served their respective terms on the disabled list this month, the Dodgers utilized a combination of relievers Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart, both of whom impressed during their limited time in the rotation.