Dallas Keuchel tied a franchise postseason strikeout record

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The Astros didn’t need an excess of run support on Friday, clinching their first ALCS game after Dallas Keuchel tossed a gem against the Yankees. Not only was he the first Houston pitcher with a scoreless start in the 2017 playoffs, but he joined an exclusive group of Astros’ hurlers with his seven-inning, 10-strikeout performance. The last Astros’ starter to rack up 10+ strikeouts in the postseason was Nolan Ryan, who fanned 12 batters en route to a 1-2 loss in Game 5 of the 1986 NLCS; several days earlier, Mike Scott recorded a franchise-best 14 strikeouts during a complete game shutout in Game 1.

Keuchel, however, is the first lefty to match the record, narrowly edging out two nine-strikeout performances by Randy Johnson (1998) and Mike Hampton (1999). On Friday, he caused trouble from the get-go. Brett Gardner fell for Keuchel’s heater in the first inning, while Gary Sanchez was foiled by a slider that was blocked at the plate. Keuchel fanned Aaron Hicks and Gary Bird with back-to-back strikeouts in the second inning; in the third, Aaron Judge capped an unproductive inning after chasing another slider out of the zone.

Almost everyone came back for seconds. Sanchez was called out on strikes again in the fourth, while Gardner collected his second strikeout in the fifth. Riding the high of Marwin Gonzalez’s terrific throw to catch Bird at the plate, Keuchel kicked off the sixth inning with another pair of back-to-back strikeouts, getting Sanchez a third time and whiffing Didi Gregorius with his devastating slider. In the seventh, Bird helped Keuchel reach history, battling through a seven-pitch at-bat for the lefty’s 10th and final strikeout of the night.

If it feels like it’s been a while since you’ve seen a southpaw dominate at this level in the playoffs, well, that’s because it has. Per MLB.com’s Joe Trezza, Keuchel’s gem was the first of its kind since Cliff Lee went seven scoreless with 10 strikeouts for the Rangers in the 2010 ALCS.

MLB, union resume blood testing after pandemic, lockout

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NEW YORK – In the first acknowledgment that MLB and the players’ association resumed blood testing for human growth hormone, the organizations said none of the 1,027 samples taken during the 2022 season tested positive.

HGH testing stopped in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Testing also was halted during the 99-day lockout that ended in mid-March, and there were supply chain issues due to COVID-19 and additional caution in testing due to coronavirus protocols.

The annual public report is issued by Thomas M. Martin, independent program administrator of MLB’s joint drug prevention and treatment program. In an announcement accompanying Thursday’s report, MLB and the union said test processing is moving form the INRS Laboratory in Quebec, Canada, to the UCLA Laboratory in California.

MLB tests for HGH using dried blood spot testing, which was a change that was agreed to during bargaining last winter. There were far fewer samples taken in 2022 compared to 2019, when there were 2,287 samples were collected – none positive.

Beyond HGH testing, 9,011 urine samples were collected in the year ending with the 2022 World Series, up from 8,436 in the previous year but down from 9,332 in 2019. And therapeutic use exemptions for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder dropped for the ninth straight year, with just 72 exemptions in 2022.

Overall, the league issued six suspensions in 2022 for performance-enhancing substances: three for Boldenone (outfielder/first baseman Danny Santana, pitcher Richard Rodriguez and infielder Jose Rondon, all free agents, for 80 games apiece); one each for Clomiphene (Milwaukee catcher Pedro Severino for 80 games), Clostebol (San Diego shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. for 80 games) and Stanozolol (Milwaukee pitcher J.C. Mejia for 80 games).

There was an additional positive test for the banned stimulant Clobenzorex. A first positive test for a banned stimulant results in follow-up testing with no suspension.