Some pitching feats in tonight’s action

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A.J. Burnett turned in his third consecutive solid effort, holding the Reds to three runs over six innings tonight, striking out eight.

Since 2000, there are only ten occurrences of a pitcher tossing at least five innings and striking out eight or more in at least his first three starts of the season. Randy Johnson had 15 such starts to open the 2000 season and only six have done it four or more times. With his start tonight against the Cincinnati Reds, Burnett has three such starts in a row and now sits on 27 strikeouts in 16 innings. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s an average of 15 strikeouts per nine innings. As a percentage of batters faced, Burnett’s strikeout rate is 36 percent. The highest strikeout rate among starters last year belonged to Max Scherzer at 29 percent. Small sample size caveats apply, of course.

Burnett also accomplished the feat in 2002 when he was with the Florida Marlins. Click here for the full list.

Meanwhile, Twins starter Vance Worley lasted just one inning against the New York Mets in snowy, 34-degree weather in Minnesota tonight. The bespectacled right-hander allowed nine runs (seven earned) on seven hits and two walks while striking out only one. Five of the runs came in the first inning, and four more were credited to Worley as he failed to retire a batter in the second inning.

John Buck, arguably the hottest hitter in baseball right now, hit a grand slam off of Pedro Hernandez, who came in to relieve Worley. Buck now has six home runs, tied for the Major League lead with Chris Davis, Mike Morse, and Justin Upton. The four RBI also bring him into a tie for the MLB lead with Davis as well.

In Cleveland, it was quite the pitcher’s duel. For seven innings, White Sox starter Jose Quintana and Indians starter Justin Masterson traded goose eggs. Quintana was lifted after seven innings, allowing just one hit and no walks while striking out seven. Masterson tossed a full nine innings, allowing five hits and one walk while striking out seven. His ERA on the season is now 0.45. The Indians walked off in the bottom of the ninth when Nick Swisher drove in Michael Bourn with an RBI single.

We’ve also had a triple play turned tonight. And the night isn’t even over yet.

Royals fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

Minnesota Twis v Kansas City Royals
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender again. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and failed experiments with veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by the middle of summer.

The disappointing product led owner John Sherman last month to fire longtime front office executive Dayton Moore, the architect of back-to-back American League champions and the 2015 World Series title team. Moore was replaced by one of his longtime understudies, J.J. Picollo, who made the decision to fire Matheny hours after the season ended.

Matheny became the fifth big league manager to be fired this year.

Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi was replaced on June 3 by Rob Thomson, who engineered a miraculous turnaround to get the Phillies into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Angels replaced Joe Maddon with Phil Nevin four days later, Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo was succeeded by John Schneider on July 13 and the Rangers’ Chris Woodward by Tony Beasley on Aug. 15.

In addition, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he will not return next season.