The St. Louis Cardinals held off the Chicago Cubs 3-2, thanks to a lucky bounce off the umpire. The Chicago White Sox escaped a bases-loaded jam in the ninth to beat the Boston Red Sox in the 10th. Miguel Cabrera hit a ball out of Comerica Park (OK, on a bounce), and Mets owners are getting restless, but a certain Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander headlines our list.
1. Clayton Kershaw might never lose again. Unfortunately, the much anticipated Kershaw-Stephen Strasburg duel didn't happen, as Strasburg was scratched 45 minutes before the game because of an upper back strain. Or maybe he didn't want to pitch in the 92-degree weather. Kershaw was 10-1 and Strasburg 10-0, so it would've been the first time since 1900 that two starters with 10-plus wins and one or fewer losses faced off. Even Vin Scully was a little ticked off at Strasburg:
Vin Scully. Apologizing to the audience. For broadcasting. With a barely-discernible sore throat. Because he wanted to see Kershaw/Strasburg— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) June 21, 2016
Anyway, Kershaw was dominant once again. He took a shutout into the seventh before settling for a typical Kershaw linescore: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 8 SO. He lowered his ERA to 1.57 and struck Bryce Harper out all three times in a 4-1 win. The Dodgers are 14-1 when Kershaw starts, and he now has 141 strikeouts and seven walks this season. Nolan Ryan walked seven or more batters in a game 71 times in his career.
Kershaw leads the majors in ERA, but he's one of four starters with an ERA under 2.00. Madison Bumgarner lowered his ERA to 1.85 on Monday, and Jake Arrieta and Noah Syndergaard are also under 2.00. Boston's Steven Wright lowered his to 2.01 after allowing only an unearned run in nine innings. Jon Lester's ERA just climbed above 2.00 in his latest start. Johnny Cueto has a 2.10 ERA.
We also have five pitchers with 10-plus wins and a sub-3.00 ERA (Kershaw, Strasburg, Arrieta, Cueto, Chris Sale). This was true as of June 15 as well, and the most recent time we had five pitchers with 10 wins and a sub-3.00 ERA by June 15 was 1973 (Ron Bryant, Ken Holtzman, Bill Singer, Paul Splittorff, Wilbur Wood). I'm more impressed by all those low ERAs. Here are the seasons of the divisional era with the most sub-2.00 ERAs:
1973: 4 (Steve Carlton, Gary Nolan, Gaylord Perry, Luis Tiant)
1971: 3 (Vida Blue, Tom Seaver, Wilbur Wood)
1985: 2 (Dwight Gooden, John Tudor)
2015: 2 (Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta)
That's it. Only four seasons since the mound was lowered after 1969 (when seven starters posted sub-2.00 ERAs) saw multiple pitchers with ERAs under 2.00. We haven't had this many pitchers dominating at this level since the low offensive levels of the 1970s. It's even more remarkable when considering league-wide offense is up this season to its highest levels since 2009. We have eight starters with an ERA under 2.25; the only seasons since 1969 with at least five were 1972 (nine) and 1969 (five). Offense is up, but the best pitchers are better than ever -- and Clayton Kershaw is the best of them all.
2. It's Erik Kratz's world, and we're just living in it. As everyone predicted, Jeff Locke outdueled Bumgarner in the Pirates' 1-0 victory. The difference? Kratz, 2-for-44 on the season between the Astros and Pirates, hit a fifth-inning home run that just eluded a leaping Angel Pagan, who slammed his glove to the field in disgust. That snapped the Giants' eight-game win streak and gave the Pirates just their second win in 12 games.
3. Something that had never happened before happened! The Colorado Rockies beat the Miami Marlins 5-3, but here's the oddity: All eight runs came on solo home runs. That didn't just beat the old "record" -- it shattered it. The previous mark for most runs in a game on solo home runs was a mere five. That's breaking the old record by 60 percent. Now it might never be broken!
4. The Texas Rangers will win the AL West. Yes, I'm calling it. Famous last words. But after they beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-3, they're 15-4 in June, 24-6 over their past 30 games and 17-4 in one-run games. For good measure, they're 17-5 against the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros, their main competitors in the division. When the Mariners lost in extra innings Monday in Detroit, the Rangers' lead increased to 9 1/2 games. They led by half a game entering June.
Which one is the Mariners fan, and which one is the Rangers fan? pic.twitter.com/WaKgDiu3FW— Dae-Joe Lee (@JoeVeyera) June 21, 2016
5. Justin Upton is heating up. Upton was the guy who broke the Mariners' hearts with his game-winning home run, his second of the game and his fourth career walk-off blast. He had three home runs and 11 RBIs entering June but now has four homers in four games and 20 RBIs this month. His strikeout rate has dropped from 38 percent in April to 35 percent in May to 25 percent in June. Hey, good things can happen when you make more contact!