It’ll be a short-lived lead, but Max Scherzer fanned 10 Twins over seven shutout innings Wednesday to move past teammate Justin Verlander for the major league lead with 178 strikeouts. He’s gotten there in just 140 2/3 innings, while Verlander has racked up his 174 strikeouts in 175 2/3 innings.
If Scherzer maintains his current pace, he’d finish with the season with the highest strikeout rate for a starting pitcher since Randy Johnson in 2002.
Here’s the top 10 in strikeouts per nine innings since 2000. I’m using a minimum of 162 innings:
13.41 – Randy Johnson (2001 Diamondbacks)
12.56 – Randy Johnson (2000 Diamondbacks)
11.78 – Pedro Martinez (2000 Red Sox)
11.56 – Randy Johnson (2002 Diamondbacks)
11.35 – Kerry Wood (2003 Cubs)
11.20 – Kerry Wood (2001 Cubs)
10.97 – Oliver Perez (2004 Pirates)
10.97 – Curt Schilling (2002 Diamondbacks)
10.93 – Erik Bedard (2007 Orioles)
10.79 – Pedro Martinez (2002 Red S0x)
Scherzer is currently at 11.39 K/9 IP with 22 more innings needed to qualify for the list. Of course, I should also note that the mark is barely the best in the majors this year: Stephen Strasburg entered his start Wednesday with 166 strikeouts in 133 1/3 innings, good for 11.21 K/9 IP. Yu Darvish is also at 10.36 this year, with 162 strikeouts in 140 2/3 innings.
The Red Sox have clinched the AL East for a third consecutive season, beating the Yankees 11-6 in the Bronx on Thursday night. It’s the third consecutive season in which the Red Sox have won the division, the first time that’s ever been done in club history. In fact, the only other times the Red Sox won the division in back-to-back years were 1903-04 and 1915-16.
AL MVP candidate Mookie Betts went 4-for-5 with a two-run single in the second inning off of Masahiro Tanaka and a three-run homer in the eighth against Aroldis Chapman to put the game out of reach. Jackie Bradley and Brock Holt also hit homers. Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez was on the hook for five runs in 3 2/3 innings, but three of them scored when Heath Hembree inherited a bases-loaded situation, then served up a grand slam to Giancarlo Stanton in the fourth. The rest of the bullpen combined to fire five scoreless innings. Steven Wright had three of them followed by zeroes from Ryan Brasier and Craig Kimbrel.
With the loss, the Yankees’ lead over the Athletics for the first Wild Card slot shrinks to 1.5 games. Meanwhile, the Red Sox will try to clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs. With a 104-49 record, their closest competitor is the 95-57 Astros. With nine games remaining in the regular season for the Red Sox, they would have to lose every game remaining in the regular season and the Astros would have to win their 10 remaining games in order to fail to claim home field advantage.