Yu Darvish is striking out a lot of hitters

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Underwhelming title? Rangers starter Yu Darvish’s strikeout rate will overwhelm you. The 26-year-old right-hander struck out 14 Red Sox over seven innings today, lowering his ERA to 2.56. The 14 K’s bring his total to 72 on the season in 45 and one-third innings, a rate of 14.3 per nine innings. On a batters-faced basis, his strikeout rate is 40 percent.

To put that in perspective, the only pitchers to have a strikeout rate of 40 percent or better last year were relievers: Craig Kimbrel (50%) and Aroldis Chapman (44%). The leader among starters was Max Scherzer at 29 percent, followed by Darvish himself at 27 percent.

In baseball history, only two starters have qualified for the ERA title and finished with a K/9 above 13: Randy Johnson in 2001 (13.4 in 249.2 innings) and Pedro Martinez in 1999 (13.2 in 213.1 innings). Today marked the second time this season Darvish had struck out 14 — he opened up the season with a 14-K performance (and 8.2 innings of no-hit ball) against the Astros. The last starter to have two 14-strikeout performances in one season was Roy Halladay in 2011, on April 24 against the Padres and on August 16 against the Diamondbacks. It was also Darvish’s fourth double-digit strikeout game in seven starts.

In terms of overall swing-and-miss rate, Darvish at 41 percent vastly outpaces second-place Ryan Dempster at 34 percent. Darvish led all pitchers last year at 29 percent, followed by Scherzer at 28 percent.

While it is unlikely Darvish will keep up this frenetic pace of missing bats, it is still something to marvel at, as we see it so rarely even as strikeouts continue to rise to historic levels.

Cards’ Pujols hits 700th career home run, 4th to reach mark

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES – St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 700th career home run on Friday night, connecting for his second drive of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and becoming the fourth player to reach the milestone in major league history.

The 42-year-old Pujols hit No. 699 in the third inning, then launched No. 700 in the fourth at Dodger Stadium.

With the drive in the final days of his last big league season, Pujols joined Barry Bonds (762 homers), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) in one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.

It’s been a remarkable run for Pujols. This was his 14th home run since the start of August for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, and his 21st of the season.

Pujols’ historic homer was a three-run shot against Dodgers reliever Phil Bickford. The ball landed in the first few rows of the left-field pavilion, the same location his two-run shot touched down the previous inning off left-hander Andrew Heaney.

Pujols received a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd – he finished out last season while playing for the Dodgers. He took a curtain call, raising his cap in acknowledgment.

The fans chanted “Pujols! Pujols!” They finally sat down after being on their feet in anticipation of seeing history.

Pujols snapped a tie with Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the list when he hit career homer No. 697 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

Reaching 700 homers seemed like a long shot for Pujols when he was batting .189 on July 4. But the three-time NL MVP started to find his stroke in August, swatting seven homers in one 10-game stretch that helped St. Louis pull away in the division race.

“I know that early in the year … I obviously wanted better results,” Pujols said after he homered in a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 22. “But I felt like I was hitting the ball hard. Sometimes this game is going to take more away from you than the game (is) giving you back.

“So I think at the end of the day you have to be positive and just stay focused and trust your work. That’s something that I’ve done all the time.”

Pujols has enjoyed a resurgent season after returning to St. Louis in March for a $2.5 million, one-year contract. It’s his highest total since he hit 23 homers for the Angels in 2019.

He plans to retire when the season ends.

Pujols also began his career in St. Louis. He was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1999 amateur draft and won the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year award.

The Dominican Republic native hit at least .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first 10 seasons. He helped the Cardinals to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.

He set a career high with 49 homers in 2006 – one of seven seasons with at least 40 homers. He led the majors with 47 homers in 2009 and topped the NL with 42 in 2010.

Pujols left St. Louis in free agency in December 2011, signing a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Angels. He was waived by the Angels in May 2021, and then joined the Dodgers and hit 12 homers and drove in 38 runs in 85 games.