Justin Verlander
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Justin Verlander reaches career milestone with 3,000th strikeout

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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.

Phillies sign Francisco Liriano and Neil Walker to minor league deals

Francisco Liriano
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Robert Murray and MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported earlier, respectively, that the Phillies signed pitcher Francisco Liriano and infielder Neil Walker to minor league contracts. If he makes the major league roster, Liriano will earn a salary of $1.5 million with an additional $1.25 million available through performance incentives. Walker’s contract information is not yet known.

Liriano, 36, struggled from 2016-18 but enjoyed a productive year out of the bullpen for the Pirates this past season. He posted a 3.47 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 35 walks over 70 innings. The lefty was quite effective against same-handed batters, limiting fellow lefties to a .659 OPS. That would figure to be a key component if Liriano makes the Phillies’ Opening Day roster.

Walker, 34, hit .261/.344/.395 with eight home runs and 38 RBI over 381 plate appearances with the Marlins last year. The veteran is versastile, having played first, second, and third base along with both corner outfield spots in recent seasons. Despite Walker’s versatility, it is tough to see room on the Phillies’ roster for him, barring injuries to other players. It never hurts to have depth.