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.

Dodgers look to join the Red Sox in the World Series

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One team has punched its ticket to the Fall Classic. Two teams are looking to join them, with the Dodgers carrying the distinct advantage. Los Angeles needs only a split in the final two games of the NLCS while Milwaukee needing to win both games at home. Doable? Absolutely. But to do it, the Brewers are going to have to wake up their sleepy bats.

NLCS Game 6

Dodgers vs. Brewers
Ballpark: Miller Park
Time: 8:39 PM Eastern
TV: FS1
Pitchers:  Hyun-Jin Ryu vs Wade Miley
Breakdown:

The Dodgers will give the ball to left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, who tossed seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the NLDS but allowed two runs and tossed 72 pitches, failing to get out of the fifth inning, in Game 2 against Milwaukee. Even if he again turns in a short outing Dave Roberts should feel pretty confident, however, as the Dodgers’ bullpen — considered a question mark coming into this series — has allowed only three runs in in 21 and two-thirds innings of work.

For Milwaukee it’s once again Wade Miley, who was the Game 5 “starter,” but who pitched to only one batter. I suppose it’s possible that Craig Counsell will burn him like that again, but it seems more likely that Miley will actually pitch in this game rather than be used as a decoy.

As I noted the other day, though, the Brewers’ pitching gamesmanship has not really been a factor in this series. The real problem for them has been their offense. They’ve scored only 16 runs in five games while batting .219. That’s actually identical to the Dodgers’ run total and average overall, but L.A. has been better at distributing that meager offense. Milwaukee has been cold at the worst times, too, going 5-for-35 with runners in scoring position in the series, including one for their last 11. If that doesn’t change, their season ends tonight.