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Watch: Dodgers and Phillies Swap Pair of Memorable Home Runs

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Inside-the-park home runs aren’t always self-inflicted by the defensive team, but perhaps no stat better encapsulates the Phillies’ season than four inside-the-park homers allowed in 30 days. Seems almost impossible. As for the Dave Roberts bit? The second notable home run of the night cost the Dodgers’ the lead and eventually the game. Clayton Kershaw Jerseys made his 228th career start on Monday. Previously he had faced 103 batters with the bases loaded. Never before had this happened. Naturally, there were a few interesting tidbits to extract. The takeaways: Kershaw is a generational talent and the Phillies are weird. Even during an inconsequential September game between two teams whose playoff fates are decided, a future Hall of Famer might slip up in a way he never has. Or a last-place team might do something a last-place team would do. Baseball cannot be scripted.


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As Nationals’ Offense Sputters, Bryce Harper Nears Return From Knee Injury

cheap baseball uniforms for sale Given that the Nationals entered the month with a 15-game division lead, the biggest suspense surrounding Washington in September wasn’t when they would clinch the NL East, but when Bryce Harper Jerseys would return. Out since August 12 due to a left knee injury, the 24-year-old slugger took an important step forward on Sunday, taking his first on-field batting practice since the injury. As the team’s offense has struggled without him, he’s racing the clock to get back into the swing of things.


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On a rainy night against the Giants at Nationals Park, Harper hyperextended his left knee and suffered a deep bone bruise when while attempting to beat out an infield grounder. He slipped while crossing first base, took flight for several feet, and rolled around in agony while clutching the knee after crashing to the ground. He was ?helped off the field and unable to bear any weight on his left leg. Simply by the look of it, it wasn’t hard to imagine the next day’s news—MRI, torn ligaments, season-ending surgery, a somber promise to root his team on from the sidelines, rehab and come back strong in 2018—but fortunately, the diagnosis wasn’t as severe as anticipated.


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In the wake of that reprieve, general manager Mike Rizzo said that he expected Harper back before season’s end, and with a 14 1/2-game NL East cushion at the time, the Nationals had no reason to rush him. Even so, as of August 30, the team not only still had no timetable for his return but manager Dusty Baker described his star as frustrated, saying he was “a long way from running.” Harper reported having suffered a calf strain in the same leg, further delaying his return and ruling out a rehab assignment (the Nationals’ affiliates’ seasons ended by September 4). While he had since progressed to jogging and hitting off a tee, Harper finally returned to the cage before the Nationals’ series-salvaging victory over the Dodgers on Sunday. Afterwards, he told reporters, “I hope so,” in response to the question of whether he would be ready for the start of the Division Series on October 6. “That’s definitely in my head. That’s what I want to do. That’s where I want to be. But it takes time. Just trying to do the best I can to get out here and do the things I can to get back and get ready, and see where it’s at.”


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Harper not only still has to regain his timing but show that he can sprint, turn sharply on the bases, slide and dive before he’s fully cleared to play. At this point, with only 13 regular season games remaining, the clock is ticking. For the team, there’s very little at stake; the Nationals clinched the division on September 10, the first team to do so, but by losing the first two games of their series to the previously slumping Dodgers this past weekend, they squandered their narrow shot to secure the league’s best record. At 90–59, they trail the Dodgers (96–53) by six games and have an elimination number of eight. That means that any combination of Washington losses and Los Angeles wins totaling eight or more would guarantee the Dodgers home-field advantage until at least the World Series (so long as they’re still playing). Unlike last year, when the Dodgers beat the Nationals in a thrilling five-game set capped by a Clayton Kershaw Jerseys save, the two teams wouldn’t cross paths until the NLCS, with the Nationals facing the NL Central winner (the Cubs lead by four games there) and the Dodgers facing the NL wild card game winner.


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The big issue for the Nationals over the remainder of the regular season is getting their offense back on track, with or without Harper, who was in the thick of the NL MVP race before the injury. The star outfielder was batting .326/.419/.614 with 29 homers and 4.7 WAR and still ranks second in all three slash stats and third in OPS+ (163). Through August 12, the team had hit .275/.340/.471 while averaging an NL-high 5.44 runs per game. Since then, they’re hitting just .240/.308/.383 and averaging 4.11 runs per game—including 2.88 in their past eight games—with their 21–14 (.600) record during that span owing far more to outstanding run prevention (3.45 per game).


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Rightfield has been a particular problem in Harper’s absence. Given the latitude to experiment via their considerable lead and expanded September roster, Baker has used eight different fill-ins: Rafael Bautista, Alejandro De Aza Jerseys, Wilmer Difo Jerseys, Brian Goodwin Jerseys, Howie Kendrick Jerseys, Victor Robles, Andrew Stevenson and Jayson Werth Jerseys, who are “hitting” .158/.230/.250 with one homer in 135 plate appearances in that capacity. Werth, Stevenson and De Aza, who have combined for 100 of those PA, have hit .115/.200/.218. Werth, the owner of that lone homer, is just 6-for-45 since returning from a 75-game absence due to a fractured metatarsal in his left foot. Kendrick, acquired from the Phillies on July 28, drew the bulk of the playing time in leftfield in Werth’s absence and has since spotted in right; he’s hit a robust .302/.351/.504 in 42 games with Washington and may be Baker’s preferred option for one corner spot come October.


Elsewhere in the lineup, centerfielder Michael A. Taylor has scuffled (.248/.302/.410) since returning to the lineup on August 14 after missing 29 games due to an oblique strain. Twelve of his 29 hits and three of his four homers in the 34 games since returning were bunched into a six-game span against the Marlins, Phillies and Braves from September 6-13. More encouraging has been the return of Trea Turner Jerseys, who’s hit .278/.358/.514 in 19 games since returning from a 51-game absence due to a nondisplaced fracture in his right wrist. The core of the offense without Harper, namely Anthony Rendon Jerseys, Daniel Murphy Jerseys and Ryan Zimmerman Jerseys, has tailed off to some degree over the past five weeks, though not enough to sound any alarm bells.


With respect to the outfield situation, it’s worth keeping an eye Victor Robles down the stretch. The Dominican-born 20-year-old isn’t just the team’s top prospect, he’s currently the game’s second-best prospect according to MLB Pipeline, with Baseball Prospectus, ESPN and Baseball America all placing him among their midseson top eight as well. The five-tool centerfielder hit .300/.382/.493 with 10 homers and 27 steals split between High A and Double A? and is 3-for-9 with a pair of extra-base hits in the majors. While he probably won’t see more than spot duty the rest of the way, his exceptional speed and defense (which has included spot duty at both outfield corners) make him a prime candidate for the postseason roster. Barring multiple injuries, there’s no scenario that has him drawing regular duty come October, but the longer Harper is out, the more time the Nationals can see what the youngster can do.


With the Dodgers’ series in the rearview mirror, the Nationals don’t play another team with a .500 or better record until the cheap jersey playoffs; they have three-game road series against the Braves, Mets and Phillies and then close at home with four against the Pirates. The next great test that awaits them is whether Harper can be ready by October 6.

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Chris Sale’s 300-Strikeout Season Places Him In Elite Company

cheap mlb hats walmart locations On Wednesday night, Red Sox ace Chris Sale Jerseys made a bit of history, becoming the first American League pitcher to tally 300 strikeouts since the turn of the millennium, and just the fourth since the adoption of the designated hitter in 1973. While the 28-year-old southpaw’s case for the AL Cy Young isn’t as strong as it was a couple months ago, he’s joined some elite company.


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At Camden Yards, Sale spun eight shutout innings against the Orioles, allowing just four hits without a walk and matching his season high of 13 strikeouts. The last of those came on his 111th and final pitch of the night, a slider that caught Ryan Flaherty Jerseys looking. The whiff was his 300 for the season, making him the first AL pitcher to reach the mark since the Red Sox’s Pedro Martinez in 1999. Since then, the only pitchers to strike out 300 have hailed from the NL, where pitchers bat: the Diamondbacks’ Randy Johnson (four times, annually from 1999–2002) and Curt Schlling (2002) and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw Jerseys (2015).


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As with other single-season milestones such as 20 wins and 250 innings, the disappearance of the 300-strikeout season owes plenty to the reduced workloads of starters via the industry-wide adoption of five-man rotations, increased reliance upon bullpens at the expense of complete games, and the use of pitch counts and (for younger pitchers) innings caps as a crude attempt to prevent injuries. In the 18 seasons since Martinez struck out 313 hitters (in just 213 1/3 innings), only nine times has a pitcher thrown at least 250 innings, and only three times has one made more than 35 starts.


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While pitcher workloads have decreased during this millennium, strikeouts have been on the rise continuously since 2006, as I pointed out in connection with this year’s record number of home runs. This will be the 12th consecutive season that MLB sets a new record for total strikeouts, with the figure topping 40,000 for the first time. The analytic revolution has reduced the stigma against the K, finding that in most cases, for hitters the strikeout is just another out. It’s preferable to grounding into a double play, and generally correlated with greater power at the plate. For pitchers, K’s have far more value, and with the reduction of the starters’ workloads has come a parade of relievers pitching with maximum effort for one inning at high velocity, further boosting strikeout rates.


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Thus, it’s worth putting Sale’s accomplishment into context, at least among the other 300-strikeout seasons. A total of 16 pitchers have reached the plateau 35 times since 1901, just five of which came prior to the majors’ first-wave of expansion in 1961-62. As with ERA+ and OPS+, we can index a pitcher’s strikeout rate to the league rate (both expressed in terms of strikeouts per plate appearance), with 100 being league average, and every increment in each direction representing a one percent difference. That means 120 and 80 would respectively indicate pitchers striking out hitters 20% more or less frequently than the league average. Unlike ERA and OPS, I’m foregoing park effects for the sake of simplicity here, but this at least puts the leagues on the same footing, whether or not they have the DH. Call the stat K+, one I’ve begged the folks at Baseball-Reference for, again and again.


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Sale has whiffed 36.3% of all batters faced in a league where 21.3% is average, for a 171 K+. Of the 35 300-K seasons, that’s actually at the lower end, but the company is still quite impressive: In 1999, Martinez struck out hitters at more than twice the league rate, whereas Sale is not quite to doubling it. Still, the latter’s season outranks three of those by Hall of Famers, namely Koufax and Carlton; someday, both Kershaw and Schilling will be enshrined as well. All of the top 10 seasons were produced by Hall of Famers, as were the majority of the 15 that land in the middle of those two tables: five more by Randy Johnson, two by Walter Johnson, and one apiece by Koufax, Martinez and Ryan.


So Sale’s season isn’t as impressive as Martinez’s by this measure, but then the latter’s season is one of the greatest in any context; his 243 ERA+ that year ranks eighth since 1901. In 2000, when Martinez set a record via a 291 ERA+ (1.74? in a league where 4.91 was average), he also produced a 221 K+ (284 strikeouts, a 34.8% rate in a league where 15.7% was average). As that season illustrates, it’s possible to have an impressively high K+ without reaching 300 strikeouts. Indeed, the top two pitchers of all time in terms of strikeout rate (K/PA) dominate the top 10 for the wild card era (1995 onward) among ERA qualifiers (one inning pitched per team game scheduled): Johnson’s 1998 season is weighted by the number of batters faced in both leagues (he was traded from the Mariners to the Astros at the deadline). That season bumps Martinez’s 186 K+ from 2002 out of the top 10. Sale’s 171 ranks 23rd during the wild card era, but it’s second since 2006, the beginning of the period during which K rates have continuously risen.