MLB Notebook: Dominating Starts at the Start

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In Tuesday night’s start against the Tampa Bay Rays, Miami Marlins starting pitcher Caleb Smith worked 5 1/3 innings, allowing two runs and striking out eight. He improved his record to 3-1 with 64 strikeouts, 13 walks and a 2.25 ERA in eight starts.

It was Smith's eighth start in a row this season in which he struck out at least six while allow three or fewer runs. He is the fifth different pitcher (seventh time) since at least 1908 to post a streak of at least eight such starts to begin a season, joining Hall of Famers Pedro Martínez and Randy Johnson, as well as Curt Schilling and A.J. Burnett.

The chart below details each hurler’s dominant start to their respective seasons.

In addition, Smith, who was acquired in a trade with the New York Yankees in 2017, has tossed at least 5.0 innings while not allowing more than five hits or three walks in each of his eight outings thus far in 2019. Caleb is the first hurler in Major League history to post eight such starts to begin a campaign, and is just the seventh pitcher to record a streak of at least six such outings.

A chart detailing the efforts of the six starters.

Relief pitcher Ryan Pressly of the Houston Astros delivered his 17th scoreless outing of the season Wednesday night against the Detroit Tigers. Entering play Thursday, the 30-year-old veteran has tossed 19.0 scoreless innings to go along with 20 strikeouts while not issuing a free pass. In addition, Ryan’s scoreless streak dates back to August 15th of last season and spans a franchise-record 37.0 innings, surpassing Roy Oswalt’s 32.1 innings streak set in 2008. His streak of 38 consecutive games is also a franchise record, eclipsing the previous mark of 26 appearances set by his bullpen-mate Will Harris in 2016.

Moreover, Pressly’s streak of 38 consecutive scoreless outings matches Craig Kimbrel for the Major League record. Kimbrel accomplished the feat during his All-Star and Rookie of the Year-winning 2011 season. Adam Ottavino was the last hurler to post a streak of at least 37 appearances, doing so across three seasons from 2014-16.

In addition, Pressly enters play today in the midst of a 17-outing streak in which he has not allowed a run or walk. Ryan’s streak matched Paul Quantrill for the Major League record, who posted a streak of 17 outings during his 2001 All-Star campaign. Following his dominant week, Pressly surpassed Hall of Famers Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera and Dennis Eckersley.

On Tuesday night against the Colorado Rockies, All-Star Chris Sale tallied a career-best 17 strikeouts across 7.0 innings pitched while not issuing a walk. Sale became the first pitcher since Max Scherzer (May 11, 2016) to notch 17 punchouts in a single game, and the first pitcher in MLB history to do so in seven innings-or-fewer. In addition, Sale became just the third different pitcher (fifth time) since at least 1908 to post 17 strikeouts without allowing a free pass and not earn the win, joining Hall of Famer Randy Johnson and Vida Blue.

In last night’s contest against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park, Yu Darvish of the Chicago Cubs tossed 5.1 innings of two-run ball, posting 11 strikeouts while not permitting a free pass. The outing marked a season-high in strikeouts, and was the second outing in 2019 in which he did not allow a walk. Additionally, Darvish became the sixth pitcher since at least 1908 to reach those totals in a start in a start of no more than 5.1 innings pitched, joining Sale, Lance McCullers Jr., Andrew Cashner, Roy Oswalt and Rick Ankiel.

Lastly, Kenta Maeda of the Los Angeles Dodgers earned the win against the San Diego Padres after tossing 6.2 shutout innings with 12 strikeouts, surrendering just three hits and not allowing a walk. Maeda also drove in both runs for the Dodgers, who defeated San Diego, 2-0. The 31-year-old became the first Dodgers pitcher to log 12-or-more strikeouts on the mound and two RBI at the plate since Brad Penny in 2007. In addition, Maeda became the sixth hurler since at least 1908 to record 12 strikeouts and allow zero walks and three hits-or-fewer in a start that lasted 6.2 innings-or-fewer, joining Sale, Blake Snell, Johnny Cueto, Collin McHugh and Matt Perisho.

LINE DRIVES (Compiled from Club Game Notes)

WALK IT OFF: On Saturday against the Milwaukee Brewers, backstop Willson Contreras hit a walk-off home run in the 15th inning to give the Chicago Cubs a 2-1 victory. The home run was the Cubs’ third walk-off in five games, a feat the franchise has never accomplished before. Previously, Chicago had three walk-off home runs in a six-game span during the 1960 season.

JUGGERNAUT: On Sunday, All-Star George Springer batted 5-for-5 with five runs, two home runs and four RBI. With this performance, Springer became the first player in Astros history to record five hits and five runs in the same game. Furthermore, he became the first Astros leadoff hitter to have five hits and two home runs in the same game since Hall of Famer Joe Morgan did so during the 1965 season.

FAB FIVE: The Miami Marlins are one of just three teams, along with the Cincinnati Reds and

Washington Nationals, to have used only five starting pitchers this season (Sandy Alcantara, Pablo López, Trevor Richards, Caleb Smith and José Ureña). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Marlins’ 41 games played marks the longest stretch the franchise has gone to begin the season without using a sixth starter since 2012. The combination of Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Ricky Nolasco, Carlos Zambrano and Anibal Sanchez made the first 99 starts of the 2012 season before Nathan Eovaldi started game-100.

GRAND START: Over a three-game span, New York Mets teammates Amed Rosario (May 10th) and Wilson Ramos (May 14th) each hit a first-inning grand slam. According to Elias, since 1962, only two other Major League teams have hit first-inning grand slams twice in a three-game span. The previous teams to accomplish the feat were the Detroit Tigers (May 19/20, 1991 – Milt Cuyler, Pete Incaviglia) and the Minnesota Twins, who hit two in one game on July 18, 1962 (Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison).

WHAT, NO LONG BALLS?: The Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals each had seven extra-base hits on Tuesday night, but there were no home runs in the game. The contest marked just the seventh game in Major League history (since 1908) in which both teams had seven-or-more extra-base hits without a home run. The last time this situation occurred was June 1, 2003, when the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Boston Red Sox 11-8.

THE KID: Through his first seven career starts, Chris Paddack of the San Diego Padres put together a 1.55 ERA and a 0.69 WHIP, while allowing a .130 opponent batting average. According to Elias, it was the lowest opponent batting average through a player’s first seven career starts since 1900 (minimum 40 batters faced).

RINGING THE BELL: On Tuesday night, Josh Bell of the Pittsburgh Pirates recorded his second career multihome run game (also May 4, 2019) while hitting his 12th home run of the season, which matched his total from 2018. Bell became the second Pirates player in the last 100 years to have 12 home runs and 39 RBI through the team’s first 39 games (also Dale Long in 1956).

EXTRA INNINGS: The Oakland Athletics played their fourth extra-inning game over their last eight contests on Monday. They scored a run in the top of the 10th before the Seattle Mariners came back with two runs in the bottom half of the inning. It marked the third time this year in which Oakland had the lead in extra innings before taking the loss. No other team in Athletics history (since at least 1906) has lost more than two such games in one season. The team is now 2-4 in extra-inning games, and the six games are second-most in the Majors behind the Pittsburgh Pirates (eight).

COME, MR. DJ: Through his first 36 games with the New York Yankees, second baseman DJ LeMahieu recorded 45 hits. LeMahieu logged the third-most hits by any Yankee since 1950 in his first 36 games with the team, trailing only Bobby Abreu (49) and Mickey Rivers (48).

TOMMY BOY: Tommy La Stella of the Los Angeles Angels recorded his 11th home run of the season during yesterday’s game against the Minnesota Twins. Before this year, La Stella had just 10 career home runs in his first five Major League seasons (396 games). Entering play today, La Stella ranks first in the Majors in home runs by a second baseman. The franchise record for home runs by a second baseman prior the All-Star Break is 19 set by Bobby Grich in 1979.

LEAD OFF LASERS: All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians hit his first leadoff home run of the season on Monday night. The hit marked the 13th leadoff home run of his career, nine of which came in 2018. At just 25 years old, Lindor’s 13 leadoff home runs rank third in franchise history, trailing only Grady Sizemore (22) and Kenny Lofton (18).

HOME RUN BARRAGE: The Chicago White Sox top three home run hitters this season are José Abreu (10), Yoán Moncada (nine) and Tim Anderson (eight). The last time the franchise had at least three players with eight-or-more homers through the first 40 games of a season was 2006 (Jim Thome-16, Jermaine Dye-10, Paul Konerko-9 and Joe Crede-8). Further, the White Sox are one of seven American League teams this season with three-or-more players with at eight home runs.

BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY: John Means of the Baltimore Orioles allowed just four hits and one run in six innings on Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels. Currently, he has allowed no more than one earned run in five of his six Major League starts. According to Elias, Means became the first Orioles pitcher to allow fewer than two earned runs in at least five of his first six Major League starts since Steve Barber, who did so in five of his first six starts in 1960.

STRIKEOUT MACHINE: On Monday night, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Robbie Ray recorded his 800th strikeout in his 125th career game. According to Elias, Ray became the second-fastest left-handed pitcher in terms of games played all-time to reach the milestone, trailing only Frank Tanana (120). Ray also became the third-fastest left-handed pitcher in terms of innings pitched to reach the mark, doing so in 664.0 innings, behind Aroldis Chapman (480.2) and Billy Wagner (597.2).

WELCOME TO CINCY: Through his first 90 plate appearances with the Cincinnati Reds this season, Derek Dietrich hit 10 home runs. According to Elias, Dietrich became the fourth-fastest player (in terms of plate appearances) in franchise history to reach the mark. Only Wally Post (1960- 69 PA/1956- 87 PA) and Hall of Famer Tony Perez (1970- 89 PA) have accomplished the feat at a faster rate than Dietrich.

SENIOR CITIZEN: Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun finished yesterday’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies 2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI. In 37 career games at Citizens Bank Park, Braun has compiled a .408 batting average with 14 home runs and 44 RBI. In Major League history, Braun ranks first in batting average at the stadium (minimum 135 at-bats). The second closest player to Braun is Carlos Delgado, who put together a .338 average at the ballpark.