The rise of the 12-strikeout game

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Last night, it was Dillon Gee and Doug Fister. On Wednesday, it was Eric Stults, of all people.

All told, there have been 23 12-strikeout games from pitchers one-third of the way through the 2013 season. Not only is it a record pace, but it’s already more than the entire league achieved in 2005 or 2008. It matches the total of 12-strikeout performances from 2009.

The all-time record for 12-strikeout games was 57 in 1965, followed by 54 from both 1968 and 1997. Tripling this year’s total, since most every team has played 51-55 games, would put us at 69 for 2013.

That’s a huge step forward from recent years. Here’s a list of 12-strikeout games by season since 1996:

1996: 24
1997: 54
1998: 51
1999: 41
2000: 44
2001: 49
2002: 40
2003: 26
2004: 31
2005: 19
2006: 29
2007: 27
2008: 20
2009: 23
2010: 35
2011: 36
2012: 46

Of course, we’re seeing more strikeouts now than ever before, but we also have more attention paid to pitch counts these days and a lot of starters leaving before they can rack up 12 strikeouts. That likely played a role in the decline that started a decade ago, though the fact that Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens were all getting up there in years was important as well. Those four rank first, third, fifth and sixth, respectively, in the number of 12-strikeout games since 1916. The active leader in 12-K games is Johan Santana with 15. Next are Tim Lincecum with 12 and Justin Verlander with 10.

This year, 19 different pitchers have turned in the 23 12-strikeout games. Yu Darvish is responsible for three, while Verlander and Anibal Sanchez have two apiece. The Tigers have six in all, with Max Scherzer and Fister also on the list.

As for the victims, the Braves and Mariners both make the list three times. The Braves were the loser in the high-strikeout game of 2013, when Sanchez fanned 17 in eight innings on April 26.

The Padres’ Stults still rates as the unlikeliest with 12 strikeouts. He hadn’t reached that total in any two consecutive starts since 2007.

Donaldson ejected for kicking dirt on plate after home run

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Minnesota’s Josh Donaldson managed to get ejected while hitting a home run.

Donaldson barked at plate umpire Dan Bellino for the second time in the sixth inning of a 4-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Thursday.

With the score 2-2, Bellino called a strike when the 2015 AL MVP checked his swing on a 2-0 pitch from Reynaldo Lopez.

Manager Rocco Baldelli came out to speak with Bellino, and Donaldson homered down the left-field line on the next offering. After rounding the bases, Donaldson kicked dirt at home plate as he crossed it.

Bellino ejected him immediately, and Donaldson, realizing he had missed home plate, returned to the plate to touch it and then argued as he kicked more dirt on it.

Donaldson also had argued with Bellino on a 1-1 breaking ball in the first inning that appeared to be high but was called a strike, leading to a strikeout.

“We need Josh on the field, out there playing, and at third base,” Baldelli said. “That’s when we’re at our best. And so that’s really the end of it. I think we can move past it at his point, and go from here.”

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