Justin Verlander reaches career milestone with 3,000th strikeout

Justin Verlander
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What could Justin Verlander possibly add to a career that already includes three no-hitters, eight All-Star designations, a World Series championship ring, 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young Award, and a handful of equally-illustrious titles? During Saturday’s 6-3 win over the Angels, he answered that question by setting two new records: his 300th strikeout of the 2019 season and the 3,000th strikeout of his Major League career.

Entering his final start of the regular season, the Astros’ ace needed six strikeouts to gain entrance into the 3,000-strikeout club — a club that currently boasts just 17 other members, most of whom have already been enshrined in Cooperstown. Getting to an even 300 strikeouts in 2019 presented a more difficult challenge. With 288 whiffs already under his belt, Verlander only had to get three more strikeouts to best his previous single-season record of 290, but required a full dozen to bring his total to 300.

In the end, he dealt 12 strikeouts over six innings, reaching both marks with ease and improving to a final record of 21-6 on the year. After striking out the side in the second and issuing two more strikeouts to Kaleb Cowart and Brian Goodwin in the third, Verlander notched no. 3,000 with a 2-2 slider to Kole Calhoun in the fourth. It wasn’t a perfect strikeout — the ball darted away from the plate and caromed toward the dugout, allowing Calhoun to advance to first — but it still counted toward Verlander’s impressive career total.

The rest of the inning got away from Verlander for a little while, as Andrelton Simmons belted a home run to score Calhoun and Kevan Smith wrested another base hit out of the hurler, but he soon got things under control again and managed to strike out the side in both the fourth and the fifth. During the sixth inning, Calhoun came up to bat again and struck out on a foul tip — giving Verlander strikeout no. 12 for the night and no. 300 for the season. He’ll finish his regular season campaign with a 21-6 record in 34 starts and a 2.58 ERA, 1.7 BB/9, 12.1 SO/9, and 6.2 fWAR through 223 innings.

The Astros couldn’t have asked for a better regular season finale from their no. 1 starter, especially as they gear up for their third consecutive trip to the postseason next week. Even better, the win — their 106th of the year — guarantees them home-field advantage through the playoffs.

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.