MLB Notebook: Historic pitching year a possibility
Buchholz's shutout fourth in 2014 with no walks, at least 12 K's, fewer than three hits
When Sandy Koufax hurled his perfect game on Sept. 9, 1965, the effort -- which also saw him fan 14 batters -- marked the second time that season the dominating southpaw spun a shutout on three hits or fewer, fanned at least 12 and issued no walks.
Since '65, there have been four other pitchers to have two such starts in a season: fellow left-hander John Candelaria in '88; and right-handers Pedro Martinez in 2000, Mike Mussina in '01 and Felix Hernandez in '12.
Boston's Clay Buchholz is one of four pitchers in 2014 -- along with Jordan Zimmermann, Johnny Cueto and Clayton Kershaw -- who already have one such effort, giving them a leg up on the rest of the competition. Considering that we have just witnessed the highest K/9 rate and the highest K:BB rate from starting pitchers in any first half in the All-Star era, as well as the lowest starting pitcher ERA in a first half since 1992, the conditions seem favorable for such a double dip.
Buchholz fanned 12 with no walks in a three-hit shutout on Sunday. Behind the dominant effort, Boston trampled Houston, 11-0. Since 1914, Buchholz is the fifth Red Sox hurler to toss a shutout with three or fewer hits, fan at least 12 and issue no walks. The previous four are:
• Roger Clemens on Oct. 4, 1987: two-hit shutout with 12 K's against the Brewers.
• Pedro Martinez on May 12, 2000: two-hit shutout with 15 K's against the Orioles.
• Martinez on Aug. 29, 2000: one-hit shutout with 13 K's against the Devil Rays.
• Hideo Nomo on May 25, 2001: one-hit shutout with 14 K's against the Blue Jays.
Buchholz is the first pitcher to hit these numbers at Minute Maid Park, and he is the fourth pitcher to reach them in a start against the Astros. The previous three: Koufax (May 13, 1965), Kerry Wood (May 6, 1998) and Matt Cain (perfect game on June 13, 2012).
Buchholz's line produced a game score of 93, making him the 14th pitcher this season to have a score of at least 90. There have been 2,848 games started this season, so the year has seen one of these top-notch efforts for every 203.4 starts. Between 1998 and 2013, the most 90-plus game scores in any one season came in '98 and 2011, when there were 21 apiece. In '98, they came at a rate of one for every 231.6 starts, and in 2011, one for every 231.3 starts.
Aroldis' K-rate is top-notch
In the Reds' 6-3 victory over the Pirates on Sunday, Aroldis Chapman fanned the side in the ninth. Chapman concluded the first half with 21 saves and 60 K's in 29 2/3 innings. Among all pitchers with at least 20 saves in the first half of a season, the southpaw's rate of 18.20 K's per nine is the highest. The previous high mark had come from the left arm of Billy Wagner in 1999, when he fanned 16.46 per nine while recording 23 saves and hurling 41 innings.
Cutch sporting gaudy numbers
Andrew McCutchen collected his fifth triple in the Pirates' loss to the Reds, and he finished the first half with a .324/.420/.575 line in 419 plate appearances. Lowering the threshold for trips to the dish, the last Pirates player to have at least 300 plate appearances and reach all three of those rate stat values was Barry Bonds in 1990 (.340/.423/.615), and before Bonds, it was Ralph Kiner in '49 (.333/.450/.645).
Price ends first half with All-Star showing
David Price managed only five strikeouts, but he also tossed eight innings of shutout ball in Tampa Bay's 3-0 win over Toronto on Sunday. Price concludes the first half with 164 strikeouts in 147 2/3 innings; his 10.00 K/9 represents the 16th-highest mark for a left-hander in the first-half in the All-Star era (minimum 125 innings).
Trout up there with the greats
Mike Trout doubled twice and drove in four runs as the Angels defeated the Rangers, 10-7, on Sunday. Trout is one of eight players to have at least 200 walks, 200 extra-base hits and 200 RBIs through his age-22 season. The others: Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Mathews, Al Kaline and Ken Griffey Jr. Trout's 96 steals are the most in this octet.
Batterymates Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner hit grand slams in the Giants' 8-4 victory over the D-backs on Sunday. With Posey's fifth-inning shot and Bumgarner's in the following frame, the duo became the first starting pitcher-starting catcher teammate duo to hit slams in the same game.
Other tidbits regarding bases-loaded home runs, Giants and pitchers include:
• Before this game, the Giants had last hit two slams in a contest on Sept. 19, 1998, when Bill Mueller and Jeff Kent each hit one against the Dodgers.
• According to the records at Baseball-Reference.com (the records go back to 1938, but are not necessarily complete going back to that year), Bumgarner -- who also hit a slam on April 11 this season -- comes up as the seventh pitcher with multiple slams in a career, but only the second to have both in one season. The full list: Dizzy Trout (1949, '50), Camilo Pascual ('60, '65), Tony Cloninger (two on July 3, 1966), Bob Gibson ('65, '73), Rick Wise ('71, '73) and Denny Neagle ('95, 2001).
Neagle is the only one of these seven to also surrender a slam to a pitcher. He served one up to Kevin Tapani in 1998.
Bumgarner's latest slam gives the Giants four by pitchers, with Monty Kennedy having one in 1949 and Shawn Estes hitting one in 2000. The Cardinals lead with 10, the Phillies have seven, the Cubs have six, the Pirates have five and the Tigers have four.
Ross keeps rolling
Tyson Ross allowed one run in seven innings to take the loss in the Padres' 1-0 defeat against the Dodgers on Sunday. Ross owns a 2.85 ERA for the season, and he is one of 21 pitchers with at least 15 starts and a sub-3.00 ERA in the Majors. Those 21 at the All-Star break are the most since the 1989 season produced 31.
Oakland pitchers getting straight A's
Sonny Gray (7 2/3 innings, six hits, one unearned run) and Sean Doolittle combined on a six-hitter as Oakland defeated Seattle, 4-1, on Sunday. The victory pushed the Athletics record to 59-36, for a Major League-best .621 winning percentage. That .621 is also the fourth-best mark for the franchise at the All-Star break, just behind the following teams: the 1971 American League West champs (56-31, .644), the '75 AL West champs (55-32, .632), and the '90 AL pennant winners (51-31, .622).
Mariners' pitching staff is royal
The Mariners' staff finished the first half holding opponents to a .226 batting average -- the lowest at the end of the first half for an AL team since the 1981 Athletics ended that year with a .221 mark. In the DH-era, the 2014 Mariners' .226 is the second-lowest mark for any AL team.
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.