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May 29, 2017

What You Need to Know

Blown Away

by Ashley Varela


The Weekend Takeaway

What’s better than one flame-throwing, run-suppressing powerhouse pitcher with an appetite for strikeouts? Two, of course.

After falling flat against the Braves last Saturday, Nationals ace Max Scherzer returned to the mound on Friday with a renewed confidence. He pitched the best outing of his season to date, striking out 13 of 31 batters and holding the Padres to just one run and three hits through 8 2/3 innings.

The Padres didn’t advance a runner past second base until the fourth inning, when Ryan Schimpf unloaded his 12th home run of the season on a 1-2 pitch that dipped just below the bottom of the strike zone. Scherzer tightened the reins after Schimpf’s home run, silencing the Padres for 14 consecutive at-bats before he pitched into a jam in the ninth.

Two outs away from completing a two-hitter, the veteran right-hander appeared to lose some of his superb control, allowing a single to Allen Cordoba, walking Yangervis Solarte on four straight pitches, and plunking Schimpf to load the bases for reliever Koda Glover. It took Glover just four pitches to retire pinch-hitter Hunter Renfroe, who whiffed on a slider for the Padres’ 14th and final strikeout of the night.

Scherzer’s dominant performance solidified his 1.95 DRA, a promising follow-up to the 2.95 mark he hit in 2016. As for his personal strikeout record, the 13 K's he recorded came nowhere close to the career-best 20 strikeouts he levied against the Tigers last May.

If the Padres thought the worst of the series was over, they thought wrong. Stephen Strasburg followed Scherzer’s appearance with a season-best outing of his own, totaling 15 strikeouts during the Nationals’ 3-0 shutout on Saturday afternoon. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, however. The right-hander labored through the first inning, escaping a bases-loaded threat with a three-pitch strikeout to Austin Hedges.

While the Padres managed to wrest two more hits from Strasburg, they stopped short of doing any real damage. The 28-year-old hurler, meanwhile, just kept racking up strikeouts, retiring the side in the third inning and besting Hunter Renfroe in an eight-pitch at-bat:

Not only was the outing the best of Strasburg’s season, but it also established a new career strikeout record for the righty. His 15 strikeouts topped the most he’d collected in a single, when he blanked the Phillies on one hit and 14 strikeouts in September of 2015.

By the time the dust settled, the Nationals’ pitching staff had combined for just six hits, three walks, and an astronomical 31 strikeouts against the last-place Padres. They weren’t quite so lucky on Sunday, however, and dropped the series finale 5-3 behind a less-than-stellar effort from Joe Ross.

Quick Hits from the Weekend

While Scherzer and Strasburg felled the Padres in back-to-back outings, Chase Anderson tossed seven hitless innings against the Diamondbacks, ending his no-hit bid in the eighth inning of Friday’s 6-1 win.

The right-hander stifled the Diamondbacks at the plate, escaping a jam in the first inning after walking the first two batters to put runners in scoring position. He retired 10 consecutive batters before issuing his third and final walk to Jake Lamb, then set down another 11 to keep the no-no intact through seven frames. Nick Ahmed spoiled the attempt in the eighth, chopping a base hit up the middle that just slipped under Eric Sogard’s glove.

Anderson’s gem was the 10th attempted no-hitter to reach the seventh inning this season, following near-misses by Mike Clevinger, Zack Greinke, German Marquez, Julio Urias, Michael Pineda, Kendall Graveman, and several combined efforts by the Athletics and Marlins. Jake Arrieta was the last major-league pitcher to record an official no-hitter last April.

***

The Judge’s Chambers found something to pound their gavels about when Aaron Judge approached the stand—er, plate—on Sunday, crushing his first career grand slam off of Oakland right-hander Andrew Triggs:

Judge’s 378-footer didn’t set any new records in distance or speed; of his 16 blasts in 2017, it ranks third-to-last in distance and falls several miles per hour shy of his record-setting 119.4 mph homer in April. It’s still an impressive mark for the rookie outfielder. According to ESPN Stats and Info, the 25-year-old Judge is the youngest Yankee to record a slam since 21-year-old outfielder Melky Cabrera hit one out for the club in 2006.

***

Dellin Betances turned up the heat against the A’s this weekend, catching Yankees backstop Gary Sanchez off-guard with a 100.6 mph heater just outside the strike zone. The ball ripped through Sanchez’s mitt, excising a piece of his batting glove while he hung onto the pitch:

Betances cooled off as the at-bat wore on, teasing Josh Phegley with a nice, slow curveball in the middle of the zone to induce a fly out for the first out of the ninth.

Defensive Play of the Weekend

Perfecting a defensive maneuver can be a painful process, as Jared Hoying learned when he slammed shoulder-first into the outfield wall on a tough catch:

Sometimes, however, the pain is more emotional than physical:

What to Watch on Monday

There’s no doubt the Red Sox are glad to see David Price return to full health after suffering a worrisome elbow injury, but make no mistake: the pressure on Price’s shoulders is enormous this season. Boston’s ace is scheduled to make his season debut against the White Sox on Monday afternoon, and it’s unclear whether the Sox will see the mediocre front-end starter of 2016, the Cy Young contender of 2015, or the hot mess that flamed out in Triple-A Pawtucket last week.

Opposite Price and the second-place Red Sox is White Sox left-hander David Holmberg, who will take the mound for his first big-league start of the year. Holmberg has seen limited exposure in the majors this year, plowing a 4.39 DRA through 10 1/3 innings in relief (2:10 ET).

Over on the West Coast, the Giants will play host to the Nationals’ Tanner Roark as they kick off a three-game set against the NL East leaders. Roark cleaned up his DRA a little after crafting a season-best outing last week, mounting his fourth win of the year on seven innings of one-hit, eight-strikeout ball. The same can’t be said for Giants starter Matt Moore, who hasn’t pitched out of the sixth inning since May 13 and is currently courting an 8.06 DRA (4:05 ET).

Ashley Varela is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ashley's other articles. You can contact Ashley by clicking here

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Circle Change: Truth C... (05/26)
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