Aroldis Chapman blows away the Cardinals

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One would never know Aroldis Chapman was pitching for the third straight day for the first time in two years Sunday.

The Cuban left-hander fanned all three Cardinals he faced to protect a 4-2 lead in the ninth as the Reds completed their sweep tonight. Chapman pitched in all three games, striking out eight and allowing just one hit in three scoreless innings.

Chapman now has 79 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings for the year. It would be the highest strikeout rate ever for a season of at least 40 innings. Here’s the top 10 in K/9 IP:

16.80 – Chapman (2012 Reds) – 79 K in 42.1 IP
16.10 – Kenley Jansen (2011 Dodgers) – 96 K in 53.2 IP
15.99 – Carlos Marmol (2010 Cubs): – 138 K in 77.2 IP
14.98 – Eric Gagne (2003 Dodgers): – 137 K in 82.1 IP
14.95 – Billy Wagner (1999 Astros): 124 K in 74.2 IP
14.93 – Brad Lidge (2004 Astros): 157 K in 94.2 IP
14.84 – Craig Kimbrel (2011 Braves): 127 K in 77 IP
14.77 – Armando Benitez (1999 Mets): 128 K in 78 IP
14.55 – Billy Wagner (1998 Astros): 97 K in 60 IP
14.38 – Billy Wagner (1997 Astros): 106 K in 66.1 IP

No starters on that list, obviously. The top K rate ever for a starting pitcher was Randy Johnson at 13.41 with the Diamondbacks in 2001 (372 K in 249.2 IP).

Chapman blew back-to-back save opportunities for the Reds on June 19 & 24, but he’s been on an incredible tear since, allowing just two hits in seven scoreless innings. 19 of his 21 outs during the span have come on strikeouts.

Clayton Kershaw might return to the Dodgers’ rotation next week

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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.